On April 19, 2022, the Golden LEAF Foundation held a Community-Based Grants Initiative Gathering for the Southeast Prosperity Zone in Jacksonville. The approximately 100 attendees were able to hear from a panel of current and former funding recipients, including Brandon Gray, Executive Director of the Wayne County Executive Jetport.
Gray worked on a project at Wayne County Executive Jetport that involved the business expansion of MIL2ATP, Inc (Military to Airline Transport Pilot). MIL2ATP in Wayne County started the only operation in the world that offers a full military-to-airline transition course. To meet increased demand for the course, the flight school needed to expand operations at the county-owned Wayne Executive Jetport, but was limited by the amount of hangar space and existing public infrastructure.
In February 2019, Golden LEAF awarded Wayne County $200,000 to construct a waterline to serve the Wayne County Executive Jetport as part of a larger corporate area expansion project to add several hangars at the jetport. Waterline improvements were needed to extend potable water and meet fire flow requirements.
Gray shared his experience developing a project to fit Golden LEAF funding, working through Golden LEAF requirements as well as a couple of lessons learned.
Gray said he had several funders supporting the project.
“We had state and federal funding for our unique needs for water and power to grow the Jetport,” said Gray. “It all came together with Golden LEAF providing funding for a smaller part of the larger project.”
With such a complicated project, Gray recommended having all the necessary partners at the table.
“To provide the project management, we had four key partners: the county, the county manager, a consultant, and aviation,” said Gray. “We listed out and divided up the tasks. We had calls weekly, as needed, to stay on task. Each partner understood their part in the overall project.”
This project fell under the Job Creation and Economic Investment priority for Golden LEAF. As part of Golden LEAF reporting requirements, information was needed from the company on the number of jobs created.
Gray advised others who work on a Golden LEAF job creation project to engage with the company soon and often.
“The private industry was engaged and onboard and willing to help because we had all the pieces laid out on the frontend,” said Gray.
The project exceeded the target outcome of 10 new employees with a total creation of 11 jobs.
Gray also recommended not to waste time figuring out something if you can ask.
“When you don’t know something, ask Golden LEAF,” said Gray. “They have worked on these projects before and will likely know how or where to get the answers you need.”
Gray said the Golden LEAF funding will fill needs at the Jetport for years to come.
“The Golden LEAF funding was instrumental in the success of our project,” said Gray. “The funding filled a very specific infrastructure need we had as a part of a larger expansion project. The funding provided a solution that will carry us forward more than a decade.”