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Our View: EPS facility would need airport upgrade

New Richmond-based aviation engine manufacturer Engineered Propulsion Systems (EPS) has been cleared for takeoff.

When its Graflight V-8 diesel engine took to the skies on May 2, it brought the hopes and dreams of its founders and dozens of New Richmond-area investors skyward with it.

There are plenty of reasons why the test flight is good news for New Richmond, and there are several challenges forthcoming as well.

The company hopes to continue testing its engines, preparing pre-production engines for testing and manufacturing complete engines in New Richmond by 2016.

According to Steven Weinzierl, chief technical officer of EPS, “That type of facility would be producing many of the components in house in New Richmond on the location of the east side of the airport.”

To accommodate the company’s vision for a manufacturing facility at the airport, the community must decide whether it’s worth the cost of running water service to the airport.

According to New Richmond Regional Airport Manager Mike Demulling, there are businesses currently housed at the airport that have the desire to expand, but the lack of water lines makes it impossible to build big hangars, which require fire suppression sprinklers.

Much to his credit, City Administrator Mike Darrow has been on top of this issue and brought it to the council earlier this year in the form of a brainstorming session about future capital projects.

Darrow even floated the ambitious idea of designating a portion of the city’s airport as an aviation industrial park.

Such a designation would send a signal to the aviation industry and mark New Richmond as a place to do business.