May 30 2013
County on Track to Approve Terms of "Grand Sky," a New Leasing Agreement with Air Force
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today brought together Northrop Grumman and its partners for the signing of an historic strategic alliance agreement between the aerospace giant and the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC), University of North Dakota (UND), UND Aerospace Foundation (UNDAF) and Northland Aerospace Foundation.
The signing of the partnership agreement paves the way for Grand Forks County and the U.S. Air Force to agree on terms for an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL), with Northrop Grumman working with its partners toward becoming the first tenant in a new high-tech, UAS complex at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. County officials are on track to approve the terms of the EUL, which it calls Grand Sky, within the next few weeks.
The county and its partners, the BRIC and the Center for Innovation Foundation, plan to make Grand Sky a state-of-the-art aviation business and technology park focused on providing cutting-edge facilities for unmanned aerial systems development.
Within 90 days of approving the lease terms, the county and Air Force would sign an agreement to lease the land pending a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. The actual lease agreement for Grand Sky is expected to be finalized and signed by mid-October.
Senator Hoeven has pushed for the EUL with top Air Force officials, and this week wrote to Kathleen I. Ferguson, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, to urge prompt completion of the lease agreement once Grand Forks County approves the terms.
Hoeven has also been working since last year with Thomas Vice, Northrop Grumman’s Corporate Vice President and President of its Aerospace Systems Sector, to help forge the new alliance. In October, the senator brought Northrop Grumman senior executives, including Vice, to Grand Forks to explore the possibility of a partnership between the company, the Air Force and Grand Forks County. The project has been advancing quickly since.
Today, Vice was in Grand Forks to sign the strategic alliance agreement and give the keynote address at the kickoff of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Summit sponsored by Senator Hoeven, along with Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Northrop Grumman, the Red River Research Corridor and the city of Grand Forks.
“This strategic alliance agreement and enhanced use lease will create a one-of-a-kind technology park, Grand Sky, at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. It will actually provide a revenue stream to the Air Force and bolster our chances of getting one of six planned UAS test sites and stimulate private investment and job creation across the entire Grand Forks region,” Hoeven said. “Northrop Grumman will provide top-notch expertise in the unmanned aircraft systems field, and Grand Forks Air Force Base will provide the perfect location to put the company’s vast knowledge and innovation to good use. The agreement and lease will help us to make Grand Forks the premier UAS base in the northern tier, which will pay big dividends in terms of jobs and economic activity to the community for years to come.”
“The strategic alliance with Northrop Grumman offers North Dakota a great opportunity to build on its UAS success and experience with a known industry leader,” said Heitkamp. “This sort of public-private partnership can help unleash the economic potential that UAS offers. I look forward to working with everyone involved in this effort to make this alliance a success.”
Under the EUL, land that the Air Force identifies as unused can be leased to a local development group that will invest in programs and facilities that support the missions performed at the base. The development group can then make it available to private companies. In this case, Grand Forks County intends to lease land from Grand Forks Air Force Base for the purpose of supporting the base’s unmanned aircraft systems activities, including the Air Force’s Global Hawk mission performed by the North Dakota Air National Guard and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
Northrop Grumman is working with its partners to use land on the base as the initial tenant. Northrop Grumman is particularly well suited for the lease because it developed and manufactures the Global Hawk system, which is already based in Grand Forks. The company is currently working with state, local and private-sector leaders in the region to identify opportunities to increase UAS business in North Dakota.
These discussions are intended to identify needs, requirements, and opportunities to collaborate and coordinate activities to reach this goal. Over the course of the lease, additional private aviation interests and academic institutions will have the opportunity to train, maintain and research unmanned aircraft systems at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Senator Hoeven is a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.