Burlington Council Grants Beta a 75-Year Lease at Airport | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington Council Grants Beta a 75-Year Lease at Airport


Published July 19, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

A Beta Technologies aircraft - COURTESY OF BETA TECHNOLOGIES
  • Courtesy of Beta Technologies
  • A Beta Technologies aircraft
The Burlington City Council on Monday approved a 75-year lease at the Burlington International Airport for electric aviation startup Beta Technologies, which plans to build a large manufacturing facility there.

"Over 100 years ago, the first aircraft landed at the Burlington International Airport," interim aviation director Nic Longo told councilors. "Tonight truly is a historical night by leasing to a manufacturer of what will be 100 percent electric aircraft."

The agreement is the product of four months of negotiations with Beta. The company plans to build a 355,000-square foot manufacturing facility, 15,000-square-foot childcare center and more than 300 parking spaces at the site.

Beta has already spent $15 million renovating its current facility at the airport, a former hangar that the company has rented since 2019. Beta employs about 300 people at the facility and plans to double that number once the new building opens in 2023, according to a city memo.
Mayor Miro Weinberger said the lease is a "big milestone" in the city's efforts to create a home for Beta. The Federal Aviation Administration still must approve the lease, though mayoral spokesperson Dan McLean said Monday that the city is confident the deal will be sealed.

"This is a big step towards the moment a lot of us have been waiting and working towards for some time," Weinberger told Seven Days.

Beta will also pay to build $11.5 million worth of infrastructure to support the facility, an investment the city will consider as a credit toward Beta's rent. The city would eventually own the infrastructure, according to Weinberger.

The lease says Beta will pay "fair market rent" on par with other airport tenants, with the rate increasing between 2 and 6 percent each year. The estimated first-year rent was not immediately available.
Also Monday, councilors unanimously agreed to provide paid family leave to more than 200 city employees as part of a new contract with an employee union. Another 200 city employees who are not in a union will also receive the benefit.

The four-year contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, or AFSCME, represents some of the lowest-paid workers in more than 10 city departments, Weinberger said. The last agreement expired on June 30.

"This is probably one of the best contracts I've ever seen working on three of them over the last decade," AFSCME rep Damion Gilbert told the council. "This is a really big step in ... history that will hopefully go to Montpelier through legislation and change history. I really think it will help a lot of families."

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to offer 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year for qualifying medical reasons, but does not mandate that they pay the worker's salary. AFSCME workers will receive full compensation for the first four weeks of FMLA leave in the contract's first year, with an additional eight weeks of 60 percent pay by 2024.

Weinberger believes Burlington is the first municipality to offer the benefit.

"Employees with this who have kids coming into their lives or who have very sick family members are going to have a very different ability to respond to that event in their lives with this new benefit," he said, adding that the perk will help retain workers.

"We're suffering workforce shortages like everybody else, and I think this is a distinguishing benefit that the city is now going to be able to offer," Weinberger said.

Gilbert agreed: "There are a lot of employees that really put a lot of dedication into working hard for the city," he told the council. "I really think that you guys have done a really a good solid to the employees with this contract."

Councilors also voted to postpone discussion on another union contract on Monday. The council had planned to vote on a new three-year agreement with the Burlington Police Officers' Association but decided to hold off after discussing the issue in executive session.

Progressive councilors attempted to strike the item from the agenda altogether, saying before the executive session that they didn't have enough time to vet the language. That motion failed, but councilors later agreed to postpone the agenda item until a future council meeting.