County to borrow $18.8M for TTC center Taxpayers to help fund aeronautical training facility

Boeing’s North Charleston plant, which produces the 787 Dreamliner, is one of three locations worldwide where wide-body commercial jets are assembled. Trident Technical College will be home to the new S.C. Aeronautical Training Center where students can learn aircraft assembly.

The planned $79 million S.C. Aeronautical Training Center at Trident Technical College is getting closer to takeoff, but it still needs $16 million before construction can begin, officials said.

Charleston County Council this week gave unanimous second-reading approval to provide $18.75 million for the project. The county will borrow the money through general obligation bonds backed by a slight increase in the Trident Tech portion of annual property tax bills that has already been approved and is part of the current budget year. For the owner of a home valued at $150,000 the tax rate increase for the Trident project adds $3 to the annual tax bill, officials said.

“The ($18.75 million) borrowing was delayed while the county was waiting on verification of the state’s commitment to the project,” said county spokesman Shawn Smetana.

The aeronautical center will help train workers in aircraft assembly, aircraft maintenance and avionics for employment opportunities with manufacturers such as Boeing and its suppliers and vendors, officials said.

“We will go back to the state Legislature during the next session to request the balance of $16 million,” said Trident Tech spokesman David Hansen. “Site preparation work is underway, and we will bid the infrastructure work this fall. We are currently in the process of selecting an architect for design of the building.”

In addition to Charleston County funding, the aeronautical center project at Trident Tech has received a $2 million federal grant, more than $30 million from the state, $1 million from the city of North Charleston and $4 million from the college. Trident owns the land where the aeronautical center will be built at its main campus on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Private-sector contributions have totaled $202,000.

The aeronautical center will have 215,000 square feet of training space with 165,000 square feet of classrooms, shops and labs. It will also have 50,000 square feet of open bays to accommodate aircraft, large aircraft parts and training aids, the college said.

County Council will have a final vote on the aeronautical center bond issue of $18.75 million at its meeting next month. No future property tax rate increase will be needed for the borrowing, the county said.

The council aeronautical center funding vote is part of a larger general obligation bond issue of up to $153 million that aims to refinance existing debt to realize a savings of $5.8 million, the county said.

“To take advantage of low interest rates,” Smetana said.

Trident Tech currently has an aeronautics program, created about a dozen years ago, which offers airplane-related degrees or certificate tracks such as aircraft maintenance, assembly technology and avionics maintenance.

The college is a partner of readySC, a state-run program that provides workforce training for various companies, such as Boeing, BMW and Bridgestone.

Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston employs nearly 8,000 people. It is home to the company’s second 787 Dreamliner final-assembly and delivery facility. The site also fabricates, assembles and installs systems for aft fuselage sections of the Dreamliner and joins and integrates midbody fuselage sections. Completed aft and mid-body sections are delivered to final assembly in Everett, Wash., via the Dreamlifter aircraft, or are moved across the local Boeing campus for final assembly.