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"Editorial: Nut Tree Airport proposals could be the start of something big"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Editorial: Airport proposals could be the start of something big
The Vacaville (CA) Reporter

Here's a word that northern Solano County residents may want to keep in mind
as proposed developments takes shape in and around the Nut Tree Airport:

The dictionary defines it as "the simultaneous action of separate agencies
which, together, have a greater total effect than the sum of their
individual effects" -- precisely what may be happening at the airport in

In April, Solano County, which operates the airport, joined with the city of
Vacaville and Solano Community College in agreeing to officially negotiate
with the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Education Foundation to bring
a museum to the Nut Tree facility.

More than a museum, actually. The preliminary proposal for the 21-acre site
includes a museum, an air park, a multi-use facility that could accommodate
up to 1,000 people, a hotel, a restaurant and an education and restoration

The education and restoration center would include space for Solano
Community College's aviation program, which already operates at the airport.

Now, another party has entered the big picture.

This month, the city of Vacaville turned what had been informal discussions
into formal negotiations with ICON Aircraft Inc., a Los Angeles company that
wants to build light recreational aircraft on property at the edge of the
Nut Tree Airport.

Besides building and selling its lightweight sports plane there, the company
eventually hopes to house a training center at the site.

Talk about potential synergy!

Those three projects alone -- an aircraft manufacturer, an accredited
aviation college program and an aviation museum -- could feed off each

The college and the Jimmy Doolittle Foundation have already discovered that
they can help each other, SCC President Jowell Laguerre recently told The
Reporter Editorial Board.

In recent years, some of SCC's aviation students have been volunteering with
the foundation, helping it maintain aircraft currently on display at the
Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center. The foundation benefits from the
volunteer labor and the students get some hands-on experience in maintaining

If ICON comes in, it could bring as many as 500 manufacturing jobs, at least
some of which will almost certainly require workers with aviation training.
SCC's aviation graduates would seem to be well placed -- and President
Laguerre says the college is open to expanding that program to fill the
needs of the job market.

Meanwhile, ICON's proposed training center would bring in people who want to
learn to fly its aircraft. In their off hours, those visitors might very
well wish to spend time at an aviation museum.

If they liked it well enough, they might even fly back in to the airport
from time to time to revisit it, and maybe bring along their friends.

There's also potential for other businesses to benefit from these projects.
ICON will need materials and parts to build its planes. Perhaps some will be
made around here.

Both pilots in training and museum visitors will need places to stay and
restaurants in which to dine. That might finally bring about the hotel and
upscale restaurants initially proposed to accompany the Nut Tree shopping

And if there are enough people trying to get from the airport to the
shopping center on a regular basis, might the Nut Tree Train once again run
between the two? Plenty of local residents would welcome that.

Of course, there are still a lot of "ifs" to all of these plans: The
Doolittle Foundation is still trying to raise the initial $2 million to
purchase the property. It hasn't even started on funding the actual museum.

ICON is still negotiating with the city and has other sites in mind, too.
Even if it locates here, there's no guarantee it will succeed as a business.

The college has bond money to put toward building classrooms for its
aviation program, but as a public school, its program funding is tied to the
shaky fortunes of the state.

Still, even if two of these three ventures take root, it could be the
welcome start of something big.

Synergy, indeed.

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