DUANESBURG — The owners of Duanesburg Airport have landed the first in what they hope will be a string of light-industrial and other business on the open land away from the runway.
HP-You will move from its Knox and Colonie locations to a new building it hopes to start constructing next month. As the name implies, the company designs and assembles smart hydraulic power units (HPU — get it?) for industrial users large and small.
Pat Waltz has been in this line of work for 30 years and is joined in the new venture by two sons and a daughter-in-law. They’ve been doing the assembly work at his home workshop in Knox, and are running out of elbow room.
“We’re at a point where we can only build one machine at a time without being congested,” Waltz said.
It’s an assembly business rather than manufacturing, he explained: They take other manufacturers' hydraulic equipment and improve its functionality and interface with a better computer control system, relying as little as possible on custom or proprietary parts, which complicate the supply chain and repair process for the customer over time.
Most town permits are in hand, Waltz added. The building permit is the last one, and he thinks it will be granted soon enough to allow for a mid-September groundbreaking on the 3,120-square-foot structure.
The site is within the service district of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which is providing $30,000 to assist with construction and relocation costs. The hope is that additional development will follow.
The airport has been owned for the last several years by Michael Garramone and Mary Elizabeth Slevin of Guilderland, longtime pilots and and owners of a 1949 Luscombe single-engine two-seater.
Slevin said they’ve been trying in recent years to increase the usage of the airport. A few years ago, they added a self-serve fueling station.
“Most of it’s local, but also people traveling through,” she said of the pilots taking off and landing there. Home states of the transients have included Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even South Carolina. The locals might be flying in for a meal at the Duanesburg Diner or they might just be enjoying the nearby scenery, which includes the towering Helderberg Escarpment.
There are limits to its use as an airfield, though: There is no tower, the 2,600-by-45-foot runway isn’t suitable for much more than a light two-engine plane, and it isn’t plowed in the winter — snowmobilers are the main users, allowed to pass through the site on trails as long as they stay off the runway itself.
So the plan is to seek additional non-aviation users to the 30-acre airport, about 15 acres of which is zoned industrial. HP-You is the first, and actually will build on an adjoining parcel, not at the airport itself.
“That’s our start,” Slevin said. “The town was incredibly supportive.”