Edmond city officials agreed this week to their part in helping a company based at the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport to double its number of employees.

Edmond City Council unanimously approved a $5,000 appropriation to help Rocketplane expand the hangar space it currently is using. Rocketplane employs 18 and expects to add another 18 positions as its work on the Rocketplane XP Spaceplane progresses. The Guthrie City Council already has agreed to its $5,000 economic development contribution to the company.

In addition, Spirit Wing, also based at the regional airport and sharing hangar space with Rocketplane, intends to employ an additional 30 workers for the Rocketplane project, according to a Rocketplane memo to the City of Guthrie.

The hangar renovations will focus on the second level of the hangar to make room for the new employees instead of housing them in rented trailers, which could have cost $22,000 a year.

The council agreed to its half of the $10,000 in funding upon the recommendation of the Guthrie-Edmond Airport Board.

Ron Groves, airport manager, said Rocketplane’s and Spirit Wing’s request is just one sign of the growth the companies are experiencing.

“The engineers are just packed in,” Groves said of the current hangar space.

He cited previous investments of $120,000 for office spaces and $35,000 on the hangar made by the companies, saying that for $5,000 Edmond has gotten an economic bargain in investing in jobs for its residents.

According to Rocketplane, eight of the 18 current employees live in Guthrie or Edmond and another on-site contractor is temporarily living in Edmond with two others housed in Guthrie.

The mean salary range of the Rocketplane jobs is $80,000.

For Edmond, this means the city is still within its $50,000 annual contribution to the airport’s operational budget, said Larry Stevens, city manager. So far, Edmond has spent $30,000 in two years, leaving $69,468 remaining to be spent as budgeted. Now that the airport has hired Groves as a full-time manager, more of the annual $50,000 will be depleted than it was in the first year of the joint operating agreement, Stevens said.

The Edmond City Council attended to two other airport items on the same Monday night agenda.

An error in billing to Edmond from Guthrie on the $300,000 in grant matching funds was corrected. In September, Guthrie had charged Edmond for the amount applied for instead of the amount actually expended at that point. A credit of $94,564 was given. However, a Dec. 7 letter states the credit was actually in error and that Edmond owed $42,700.

In correcting the problem, Stevens pointed out to the council that it does not alter the final $300,000 the city will pay for matching funds.

Also approved Monday night was $9,285 from Edmond to help pay for an $18,750 sign and lighting to go at the entrance of the airport. The sign will label the airport as a “geoport” standing for Guthrie, Edmond and Oklahoma airport. A new branding campaign for the airport labels it as a “port for air, industry and research.”

The campaign also extends to the Web site, which is now www.geoport.us for the airport.

“I keep telling people if you’ve gone past the drive-in theater you’ve gone too far,” Groves said, noting proper signage should help eliminate the location problem for new visitors and prospective clients.

“There’s a momentum at the airport,” he said.

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