The Somerset County Airport is getting another upgrade, one that officials are banking on to bring the county-owned facility some revenue.

The airport is slated to receive $350,000 to replace outdated aircraft storage T-hangars, PennDOT announced recently. The county must match the grant, but it likely won’t include the money until the 2009 budget.

“It’s certainly going to change things,” Manager Dave Wright said, estimating that the current hangars are about 50 years old. Currently, 40 local renters use them for storage, but Wright said the improvements could draw new customers from surrounding areas.

The grant is part of a $3.9 million PennDOT funding package, allocated to 18 airports across the state for safety improvements and facility upgrades.

The state’s jet fuel tax provides the funding.

Last summer, officials broke ground on a six-month, $1.4 million runway extension project at the airport, which the state has said brings $2 million annually to the local economy.

Wright said spreading the word about the extension — and updating maps pilots use — will make a difference.

“Hopefully, we will see an increase by this fall,” he said.

Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said the longer runway will spur economic growth and jobs.

Final inspections are complete, and county leaders are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for upcoming weeks. The hangars now house about eight privately-owned airplanes, she said.

Revenue from the airport that exceeds operating costs would return to county coffers, she said, but the real benefit is touted as the facility’s potential to prod the local economy.

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