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Could the air cargo ramp initiative take off this time?

22 September, 2018 | Andrew West

One unfulfilled economic development idea always seems to resurface in Kent County.

“When I bring this up, people are going to snicker,” said Linda Parkowski Tuesday at the Kent Economic Summit at Delaware Technical Community College.

“We’re looking at the air cargo ramp. This has been around and discussed for 30 years.”

The air cargo ramp idea utilizes Dover Air Force Base for private carriers’ cargo flights, related to what currently is used in support of the base and potentially what could be in support of commerce in the area.

Ms. Parkowski, just a few months into her new role as executive director of the Kent Economic Partnership, outlined the priorities of the office during a 25-minute presentation.

Largely, the new public-private ideas are building off insights obtained in Rockport Analytics’ research about the county. One of the immediate hopes, she said, is to boost Kent County’s role in warehousing, distribution and logistics – areas the researchers said would be great possibilities for the county.

The air cargo ramp might just be a great tie-in, she said.

When you go back to some of the original discussion and initiatives outlined in the past few decades, the air cargo ramp largely was pitched as a place to “park” and service private cargo planes in what was formerly called the “Civil Air Terminal” area at Dover Air Force Base. Cargo outfits such Evergreen and Atlas would fly in to the base, but not be able to stay so the planes would be flown to Philadelphia and costs amounted to tens of thousands of dollars each time.

“I see this as, hopefully, a Port of Wilmington for Kent County if we can get this working,” said Ms. Parkowski.

With two fingers slightly apart, she said, “DelDOT has done an amazing job and we’re this close to signing a joint use agreement.”

One big difference, she noted, was that previous discussions of a Joint Use Agreement between the state and the Air Force only called for two-year agreements. The new agreement calls for a 50-year agreement.”

Nothing has been signed at this point, Ms. Parkowski said.

One of the next steps, she said, would be to issue a request for information to find out what its potential uses could be.

The prospects of it working also relate to available land in the adjacent Kent County Aeropark where there are several available acres.

The Kent Economic Partnership is a nonprofit organization that was restructured earlier this year with a collaborative agreement of Kent County Levy Court and the Greater Kent Committee, a group of business leaders.

The air cargo ramp would be what formerly was called the Civil Air Terminal at the end of Horsepond Road in Dover. Currently, the terminal is most used on NASCAR weekends when drivers and crews arrive and depart in private planes.