MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — For over 80 years, the aerospace department at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) has grown.
“We are the third largest collegiate aviation program in the country,” said Dr. Chaminda Prelis.
Dr. Prelis is the chair for the Department of Aerospace and said their aerospace campus operated at the Murfreesboro Airport for decades.
“We’re kind of landlocked there,” he said. “There’s no more room for growth.”
However, Dr. Prelis said there’s a solution to this problem.
The university has set its sights on moving the campus to the Shelbyville Municipal Airport.
“We have a blank slate to build the facilities that we do need for the next evolution of this program,” Dr. Prelis said.
MTSU has been talking about making this happen for several years.
“This move is very interesting and is a win-win for both MTSU and Bedford County,” said Dr. Murat Arik.
Dr. Arik is the Director of Business and Economic Research for the university and was asked to conduct a study examining the economic impact of this move.
The study showed something promising.
Completed at the end of March, the study evaluated the financial benefits this project would bring to Shelbyville and Bedford County.
During the construction phase, the study said 164 jobs directly and indirectly will be created, and more than $91 million will be generated in business revenue over three years.
Land acquisition, site improvement, and construction spending will total $22.5 million over three years.
The study also showed that the relocation of aerospace operations will be responsible – directly and indirectly – for 257 jobs and nearly $14 million in business revenue annually.
“We expect to see tightening relationships with these two counties because of the presence of MTSU,” said Dr. Arik.
The study also expressed that MTSU’s Aerospace Department’s operation in Bedford County will generate nearly $140,000 annually in property tax and $536,989 in sales tax.
“You’re branding the community because of the presence of a first class training program,” said Dr. Arik.
The university has already been approved for more than $60 million in state funds for this project.
This study estimated in the three years required to prepare the airport site, begin construction, and as MTSU begins to ramp up operations, that the activity would generate personal income of $37.8 million.
“Going to Shelbyville, we can increase our fleet size, we can increase the laboratory space, the classroom spaces, all of that,” said Dr. Prelis.
Dr. Prelis said while it’s taken awhile, this move is happening and will hopefully shine a brighter light on MTSU and Shelbyville.
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“If you consider the support that we’ve gotten from the state and the local community to do something like this, it’s unprecedented and it’s super exciting to be a part of it,” he said.
The city of Shelbyville will be voting on the relocation of MTSU’s aerospace department at their next city council meeting Thursday, April 13.
If approved, Dr. Prelis said the university hopes to begin construction by the end of this year, with the hope of being moved in and operating in less than five years.