BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — When Battle Creek Unlimited was awarded a $150,000 grant a few weeks ago, president and CEO Joe Sobieralski said the organization knew exactly what to do with it: make a drone activity hub.
“$100,000 of the grant dollars are going to be utilized to position Battle Creek to take advantage of the growing drone industry,” Sobieralski said in an interview on Monday. “We feel that Battle Creek has a lot of the assets needed not only for research and development but for the manufacturing of drones.”
Some of the assets being all developable land at Kellogg Airport on Dickman Road, he said. It’s got a 10,000 foot runway that they believe is perfect for the large-scale drones being built these days.
“And we don’t have passenger air traffic at Battle Creek,” Sobieralski said. “So mixing drone with passenger traffic, such as a commercial Delta flight, is not really favorable. So we believe a combination of those things really fits us well.”
Sobieralski said they’re using the assets to lure drone businesses to the area. They feel it’ll put them in a good position to be named the Department of Defense East Coast Defense Missile site.
“One thing that Battle Creek has is that we’re operational ready or shovel ready,” Sobieralski said. “We’re ready tomorrow if the federal government were to say ‘this is the site' and chose to fund it as well.”
Battle Creek is one of four sites under consideration for a missile defense site, Sobieralski said. The city, which is home to Fort Custer and the Air National Guard base, is competing with sites in New York and Ohio. If chosen the project will bring millions of dollars to the area and around 1,000 jobs.
"We’re a defense community," he said. "We’re looking to grow that and protect that and grow it even more because it’s huge deal to our economy."