MISSOULA — The Missoula County Airport Authority this week approved a $2 million state loan for Neptune Aviation to fund the purchase of two aircraft hangars and the creation of dozens of new jobs.
Neptune, a national aerial firefighting company based at Missoula International Airport, purchased the hangars last September from Homestead Helicopters. The hangars provide nearly 30,000 square feet of aircraft storage space, along with offices and other furnishings.
“The loan is a $2 million loan to Neptune to purchase the hangars,” said Lynn Fagan, the airport’s administrative manager. “This is financing those hangars.”
The loan stems from the state’s Infrastructure Loan Program and was awarded by the Montana Board of Investments. Under the program, the airport serves as the loan administrator and Neptune receives tax benefits in exchange for creating new jobs.
Doug Hill, director of State Loan Funds at the Montana Department of Commerce, said Neptune’s $2 million application was based on the creation of 120 new jobs.
“They need to be considered full time when I do my review,” said Hill. “For each job that’s created, Neptune is able to borrow $16,666. That’s how we came up with the $2 million amount.”
The Infrastructure Loan Program helps Montana businesses finance the acquisition of publicly owned buildings and related improvements. It also looks to boost economic development and create jobs in the basic sector of the economy.
The loans are awarded to companies that employ at least 15 people. The new jobs that are created must pay the private annual wage in Montana, which is currently $44,100, according to Hill.
“The job has to pay the private annual wage to be eligible for the $16,666,” said Hill. “Neptune wages are very good. Many of their employees make two, three or four times more than the private annual wage.”
Neptune Aviation was founded by Marta Timmons in the mid-1990s, and she based the former New Mexico company in Missoula. Since then, Neptune has grown, modernized its aircraft fleet, and is looking to take its work overseas during the offseason in the U.S.
Fagan said the airport has awarded Neptune a grant once before.
“We’ve done one of these loans before in 2017. At that time, Neptune repaid the loan a month or two after entering it,” said Fagan. “This time, the loan payments will be made over time.”
Hill said Neptune created 120 jobs with the previous loan. Combined with the new $2 million loan, it will have created 240 new jobs at the airport, making it one of Missoula’s largest single private employers.
“Neptune has agreed, and we will provide them four years to create those 120 jobs,” said Hill. “From the time of the loan to those four years, they have that much time to create those 120 jobs they plan to create as a result of that loan.”