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Ford Airport breaks ground on federal inspection station

The project is the first step in bringing direct international travel to the Ford Airport.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Gerald R. Ford International Airport broke ground on Phase I of a new federal inspection station (FIS) Wednesday, which will ultimately allow the airport to support nonstop international commercial passenger flights.

Phase I of the construction project, which will take place on the east end of the terminal, will include a new baggage claim area, restrooms and operations infrastructure that will be used for domestic flights until the full FIS project is complete. Conversations have begun at the federal level for a full FIS build out, but a timeline is not in place for completion.

The FIS is part of Project Elevate and one of three new developments for Ford Airport to accommodate projected passenger growth over the next 20 years. With support from Sen. Peter MacGregor, former Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, former Rep. Chris Afendoulis and The Right Place, Project Elevate secured a $5 million grant from the MEDC to begin work on curbside improvements needed for the FIS, which is expected to cost a total of $30 million.

No local taxpayer dollars will be used to finance Project Elevate, which will be paid for with a combination of federal and state grants, municipal bonds issued by the airport and user fees.

Currently, the Airport cannot process direct international arrivals, other than private aircraft. When a private aircraft lands at the Airport from an international airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, agents meet and screen passengers at the aircraft. Without the dedicated screening facilities of an FIS, CBP’s screening capacity is limited to small aircraft.

The addition of an FIS will provide a permanent home at the airport for customs officers, allowing CBP to consolidate multiple locations into a single facility. The Airport will eventually build a corridor from Concourse B that will lead to a dedicated customs area, complete with screening equipment, security, holding cells and other FIS requirements. When fully built out, the FIS will be able to screen 400 passengers per hour.

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