WMU board OKs agreement with Florida's Charlotte County

by Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of John M. Dunn and Jeffery Allbritten.

WMU President John M. Dunn and Florida Southwestern State College President Jeffery Allbritten in Punta Gorda

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees has approved an economic development investment agreement with Charlotte County in Southwest Florida.

The agreement paves the way for improvements at Punta Gorda Airport designed to enhance WMU's ability to deliver aviation flight training at the facility. Up to $500,000 in improvements will be done by the county to an airport hangar complex WMU is leasing for the program. WMU trustees approved that $1-per-year lease in December.

The new agreement calls for WMU to:

  • Establish and begin the flight training program at Punta Gorda Airport no later than January 2018.
  •  Invest no less than $2 million in building improvements and/or equipment and training prior to July 1, 2018, to support delivery of a bachelor's degree in aviation flight training.
  • Continuously operate the program at Punta Gorda Airport for no less than five years or refund $100,000 to Charlotte County for every year less than that five-year period the program operates.
  • Appropriately staff the program and within five years maintain an average student enrollment of 150 students per academic year with a provision for significant market disruption.

David Powell, dean of the WMU College of Aviation, presented the recommendation to the trustees and told them some of WMU's agreement requirements are already nearing reality.

"We will start Sept. 5, 2017," Powell said of the new aviation degree program at the Punta Gorda Airport, noting that the WMU's investments in the facility and program also would be completed early.

He said the program goal is to bring in 50 new students per year, and he expected to reach an average annual student enrollment of 150 in three years.

The agreement has already been approved by the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners. The WMU board approval means the agreement can be finalized and implemented immediately.

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