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Coeur d’Alene Airport sees new developments

photo of stancraft groundbreaking

Dauntless Air firefighting planes dropped 800 gallons of water as part of the groundbreaking of the StanCraft fixed-based operation. Photo courtesy of Coeur d’Alene Economic Development Corp.

COEUR D’ALENE – Wooden boat manufacturer StanCraft Co. is constructing a 30,000-square-foot private airplane hangar at the Coeur d’Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field – one of a number of developments coming to the North Idaho city’s airport.

But what do airplanes have to do with boats?

“99% of our StanCraft wooden boat clientele fly private,” said Robb Bloem, president and CEO of the Hayden-based company.

And the people with the wherewithal to buy $600,000 to $1 million boats were asking StanCraft to fix up the interiors of their planes like the interiors of their boats, leading to an expansion of the company that could add 20 to 25 jobs, with a goal of 100, he said.

photo of robb bloem

Robb Bloem

Bloem had an ulterior motive for investing $15 million in the StanCraft Jet Center, technically known as a fixed-base operation (FBO). While the Coeur d’Alene airport had two FBOs, they didn’t show off the city the way he would like.

“When our clients would fly in, we’d hopefully whisk them in to our shop, which is very beautiful,” Bloem said.

So the company decided to build a new FBO to provide a nicer introduction to North Idaho, where Bloem was born and raised.

“We’re creating a nice entry point,” he said. “It’s no different from driving to downtown and seeing a beautiful lake to see a beautiful facility.”

The existing 4,800-square-foot facility will become a shed for trucks and forklifts, while the new  50,000-square-foot building will include 30,000 square feet of hangar, 15,000 square feet of work and support space and just under 15,000 square feet for FBO/offices, which will also include a Thomas Hammer café, virtual golf studio, nap rooms and a StanCraft wooden boat showroom, he said.

The company plans to build an airpark of 15 to 20 hangars of 12,000 square feet each to attract other companies, Bloem added.

“We’re seeing the excitement in the future of the Coeur d’Alene Airport,” he said.

The building is designed by Eric Hedlund Design of Coeur d’Alene and built by Young Construction Group of Hayden. It is expected to be completed in May.

Dauntless

That’s not the only expansion going on in the Coeur d’Alene Airport. In June, aerial firefighting company Dauntless Air moved its maintenance facility from Deer Park, Washington, to Coeur d’Alene.

Dauntless Air has had a contract for seven years with the Idaho Department of Lands to help fight fires around the state.

Brett L’Esperance

“We outgrew Deer Park, and we’ve always had our eye on Coeur d’Alene,” said Brett L’Esperance, CEO of the company, which is based in Appleton, Minnesota. “The challenge was, a year ago there weren’t many open locations.”

But the company did find a hangar – albeit a small one – and that broke the ice, L’Esperance said.

“We let it be known we were looking for more space, and we picked up a hangar that’s a little bit bigger,” he said. “We’re not done, but two hangars right now are meeting our needs.”

Coeur d’Alene, a mountain resort town, also provides more amenities for Dauntless employees, CFO Brian Murphy added.

“It’s a far cry from what we had in Deer Park, which was a very small town,” he said.

That also makes recruiting the pilots, mechanics and crew chiefs the company needs easier, L’Esperance added.

“We’re looking for young, well-trained mechanics who will be around for a long time,” he said. “The next 10 years is all about finding, hiring and retaining the best people.”

Dauntless has six full-time employees throughout the year, but during the summer peak season, the company could have ten times that number, Murphy said.

While Dauntless is not currently renting space in StanCraft’s FBO, that could happen down the road, Murphy said. The companies first made contact about a year ago through the Panhandle Area Council, when Dauntless was looking for space and StanCraft was looking for funding, he said.

“The Panhandle project is somewhat on hold, so StanCraft is moving ahead,” he said.

Dauntless participated in the groundbreaking with a flyby of some of its aircraft and could lease space in the future, he said.

About Sharon Fisher