50 new jobs expected once Warrenton firm expandsWARRENTON - Construction could soon be under way at the Astoria Regional Airport, as a $2.59 million loan from the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department will allow airplane equipment manufacturer Lektro to expand its manufacturing plant at the Warrenton site.

The Lektro facility, which makes electric aircraft towing tugs, will undergo a 22,000-square foot expansion that will allow the company to increase its production potential and start adding contracts with the military and major airlines.

"Based upon the level that we're at now, we're pretty much at maximum capacity at the factory," Lektro President Eric Paulson said. "In order to increase any further, we felt that we needed to expand in order to sustain growth."

He said that the company is planning to produce larger versions of its aviation tug, as well as look for new markets. Adding contracts with the military and major airlines could easily double Lektro's business, Paulson said. And the expansion, which will include a new addition on the north side of the building and 8,000 square feet of second-floor office space, will allow the company to quadruple its manufacturing capability. As the company expands and business grows, Lektro plans to add 50 family-wage jobs to its operation.

Port of Astoria commissioners are expected to approve the loan, along with a $440,000 grant from the OECDD to construct a water tank necessary to provide fire suppression, during their meeting at 6 p.m. today. The Northwest Oregon Economic Alliance has awarded a $46,200 grant to the port for engineering the water system.

The port, which operates the airport, supports the expansion because it creates good industrial jobs in the area, Executive Director Peter Gearin said. With the addition of a water tank, the port can promote more development at the airport's industrial park.

"The biggest limiting factor for expansion has been the lack of a water reservoir out there," Gearin said. "What this grant does is provide funding to put that in so we can satisfy the water requirements."

The port wil receive the grant and loan money for the expansion, and will then increase Lektro's rent to cover the payments. Once the funding is in place, Paulson said that as long as the water tank is installed and a fuel tank is moved out of the way by April 1, construction on the expansion should begin soon afterward.

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