Rock Airport of Pittsburgh (9G1), an industrial airport and airpark in Pennsylvania, is scheduled for public auction in the spring.
And while a bid of $6 million has been made for the property, which is now in bankruptcy, airport officials hope to inspire additional bidders to ante up more money.
According to an airport spokesman, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania has scheduled a hearing on March 11 to hear objections on the $6 million offer and “will entertain higher and better offers” at another hearing slated for April 5. The next bid will have to be at least $6.2 million, he noted.
Rock Airport, about 12 miles from downtown Pittsburgh and formerly known as West Penn Airport, was bought in 1998 by Rock Ferrone, an inventor and manufacturer of newspaper printing equipment. Through his business, he was traveling extensively, so he earned his private pilot’s license and bought a Cessna 182. But he still found that time was being wasted as he traveled from his manufacturing plant to the airport.
That’s why he bought the airport, then built a manufacturing facility for his company, Rock-Built Inline Finishing Systems Inc., at the adjacent RockPointe Business Airpark, which has four buildings, and is home to three companies.
Ferrone said he created the airpark so other businesses could benefit from the convenience of operating on an airstrip. “The use of general aviation gives businesses an opportunity to service their customers faster,” he said.
In 2000, after the paving of the 3,550-foot runway, construction of the business park began. The airport project received more than $14 million in general aviation grants from the state of Pennsylvania, along with other state and federal money for portions of its expansion. Total investment in the project was “well over $22 million,” according to officials.
As part of the airport’s development, it was accepted as a “Keystone Opportunity Zone,” a state initiative that grants tax exemptions at several government levels, including state, local and county, according to Ferrone. “Several businesses moved into the site and enjoyed the benefits of the Keystone Opportunity Zone through 2011,” he noted.
But “due to outside influences,” the airport development was stopped and the airport was forced into bankruptcy, airport officials said.
According to a report a Pittsburgh newspaper, The Tribune-Review, the airport has been the subject of about 95 lawsuits filed in Allegheny County Court, dating to 2001, including several from government taxing bodies, such as the county and local school districts, who claim the airport owes an estimated $64,000 in taxes.
Ferrone claims the airport and business park should have been exempt from those taxes because it is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone.
Ferrone hopes that the airport’s new owner will be someone with a love for aviation who sees the benefit that general aviation affords businesses.
“The opportunity here at the airport and airpark is huge,” he said. “My current focus is elsewhere, but this project can be an amazing opportunity for the right buyer, especially in light of the Marcellus Shale activity in this area.”
Ferrone notes that the successful bidder will also own the gas and mineral rights for the Marcellus Shale. He adds that revenue stream projections by two independent gas and oil companies project income of more than $11 million within the first 10 years for gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale.
Those interested in bidding on the airport must file a written response with the bankruptcy court before March 11, according to airport officials.
For more information: 412-855-6284, Rock-Port.com