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Illinois Valley airport lease could be worth millions, add up to 200 jobs

The Josephine County Board of Commissioners is poised to approve a 30-year lease that would inject more than $18 million into the local economy and perhaps as many as 200 jobs.

The vote on Wednesday night will open the door for Manor Communities Development, which has a history of development projects in the Cave Junction area, to begin building custom facilities for several unnamed aeronautical system manufacturers on land at Illinois Valley Airport.

A majority of the $18 million will be in the form of credits for upgrades and improvements at the airport, but even if all of the credits are alloted, the county will still receive $5.5 million in revenue over the life of the lease.

"They have several major tenants that are either very interested or are verbally committed," County Airport Manager Larry Graves said.

Graves said Manor will build to suit the needs of tenants it has recruited.

All of the potential tenants will be related to the aeronautical industry, including at least one research and development company, a pilot-training company and a manufacturing company.

Between the various tenants and the requirements for maintenance, operation and repair, there could be as many as 200 jobs.

The focus will be on building unmanned aerial systems for nonmilitary and nongovernment use. Graves said the end products will be for strictly commercial sales.

"There won't be drones flying over marijuana grows," he said.

The lease, which runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2045, calls for a $174,740 payment to the county in the first year, with escalating payments up to $642,904 in the fourth year.

The annual rent will be $642,904 each year from that point through the end of the lease, but Manor can receive credits by making improvements at the airport.

In fact, Graves said two-thirds to three-quarters of the payment will be in the form of credit for infrastructure improvements such as a new water system, new electrical system, a taxi way to connect existing taxi lanes, an airport ramp area, a septic handling system and completion of an industrial park at the airport.

Those improvements are expected to lead to even more commerce at the airport.

Larry Osborn, the founder of Manor Communities, has already signed the agreement, which will provide Manor the use of nearly 74 acres at the airport.

Manor has offices in Grants Pass, Las Vegas and Lodi, Calif. Osborn has been involved in several projects in the Illinois Valley, including home developments, a medical facility and an unsuccessful attempt to buy Laurel Pines Golf Course.

The possibility of a deal surfaced in the spring, Graves said, when County Commissioner Simon Hare told him that the county had been approached about leasing property at the airport.

"Over the course of the summer and the fall, we fleshed out what they are intending to do," Graves said. "I'm very hopeful and positive and looking forward to the future."

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Anne Basker Auditorium, 604 N.W. Sixth St., Grants Pass.

Reach reporter Jim Moore at 541-474-3721 or jmoore@thedailycourier.com