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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch A memorandum of understanding between Marshall University Research Corporation, Marshall University and the Huntington Tri-State Airport was signed Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at Huntington Tri-State Airport. In this photo from left are Cabell County Commissioner Nancy Cartmill, Huntington Tri-State Airport Director Brent Brown, John Maher of Marshall University and David Lieving, president and CEO of HADCO.

HUNTINGTON — A feasibility study to potentially bring an aviation maintenance school to Huntington Tri-State Airport is underway.

"Today we are formalizing our agreement with Marshall University and Marshall University Research Corp. to continue those efforts by signing a memorandum of understanding," Huntington Tri-State Airport director Brent Brown said.

The three entities, along with Marshall University's Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), are conducting the study.

"The aerospace industry in West Virginia has great potential and an aviation maintenance program would be an integral part to the future of aerospace, and I believe our airport would be the right place for that program to operate," Brown said.

Brown said there are so many skilled workers in this area who are looking for job opportunities.

"We can re-utilize their skills and train them for careers in the aviation industry," he said.

John Maher, vice president for research at Marshall University, says the opportunities in aerospace are available in the Tri-State region.

"The airport has some developable land they have been looking at in a strategic way, and HADCO (Huntington Area Development Council) has been kind enough to bring in an economic development consultant that got this started," he said. "RCBI was able to get a U.S. Economic Development Authority grant called RCBI AERO to look at the development of the commercial cluster. So with all these folks working together, we got going on the potential for a maintenance school here."

"We see aerospace as a growth sector," said David Lieving, president and CEO of HADCO. "This partnership gives us another outlet to help grow the aviation and aerospace sector in our area."

"We expect to have the results of the study by mid-November and a determination of feasibility by the end of the year," Maher said.

With an aviation program, he said, Marshall will be able to train a new workforce for the growing industry in the Tri-State, leading to a growing economy and job opportunities.

"Then there would be a supply of trained mechanics and folks who do aircraft maintenance, and repair operations want to co-locate at a nice airport like Huntington Tri-State Airport, which would have a school that will provide them with their mechanic base," he said. "There is a real opportunity to make this region an aerospace hub."

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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