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Boat Builder Blasting Off

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Staff Writer: Brian Walker - June 10, 2019 at 5:00 am

Thain Snyder buffs a wooden boat being manufactured at StanCraft in Hayden on Thursday. (BRAIN WALKER/Press)

HAYDEN — The four-generation StanCraft company, which carved a niche by manufacturing wooden boats, plans to build a $15 million jet center at the Coeur d'Alene Airport that will update aircraft, serve as a fueling station and create about 50 jobs.

StanCraft President Robb Bloem, who owns the StanCraft ventures with his wife, Amy, said construction on the 85,000-square-foot jet center at the northern end of the airport near Atlas and Lancaster roads is expected to start in August. It should be completed this time next year.

"It will be the single largest investment the airport has ever seen except for the runways themselves," Bloem said. "We envision this sparking a lot of development around the airport."

The structure will include two hangars in addition to a fueling center.

Last month, StanCraft purchased Southfield Aviation, one of two fuel operators at the airport, to set the stage for its future jet center. It has also inked land leases totaling $135,000 with Kootenai County, which owns the airport.

"Southfield was a great business to buy that got us on the field, practice the FBO (fixed-base operator/fuel) side and have management in place before we open," Bloem said.

The existing 4,800-square-foot building formerly occupied by Southfield will be maintained and used for maintenance after the new center is built, he said.

Dovetailing on StanCraft's plans at the same airport location is another aerospace-related project being organized by Panhandle Area Council, a Hayden-based nonprofit that spurs on economic development throughout North Idaho.

PAC Executive Director Wally Jacobson said PAC has applied for a $7 million federal grant to fund another 40,000-square-foot hangar and house two other unannounced aerospace companies, along with North Idaho College's aerospace program. NIC's program is also in expansion mode and leases a space at nearby 1845 W. Dakota Ave.

"This would be fantastic for the airport and the region," said Jacobson, adding that he expects to hear if the grant will be secured late this summer. "The reason PAC is involved is that we look for job creation and economic development. PAC would own the hangar, lease it back to the tenants and have StanCraft manage it to keep a consistent brand."

Pat O'Halloran, NIC's aerospace program director, said the college offers an airframe component but the additional space would allow it to possibly add powerplant (engine) mechanics to round out the program.

"That would really help us up our game," O'Halloran said.

PAC's grant application includes funding for equipment for NIC's aerospace program.

Jacobson said having NIC and businesses on board for the project increases the chances of the grant becoming a reality, rather than pursuing it with a proposal of "building it and hope they come."

Bloem said branching out from his wooden boat business, started in 1933 by Stan Young, to improving the interiors and exteriors of private aircraft was fueled by demand from his customers on the boat side. StanCraft already employs 65 in locations in Hayden, Coeur d'Alene and Garwood.

"Our wooden boat customer base wanted to see what we can do with the interior of their jets," he said. "That is what sparked this fire. A lot of our customers are buying 10- to 12-year-old jets and they want to upgrade their avionics, exterior paint and interior to their look and color. There's just not a lot of places that do that in the country."

Bloem said he believes demand for the jet center services will grow just as it has for wooden boats.

"It's the same model we're going after in the jet world," said, adding that StanCraft constructed a record 20 boats last year. "It's the same perpetual networking of telling your buddy about it."

Bloem said he anticipates many of the jobs created by the jet center will pay between $40,000 and $50,000 per year.

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