The City of Merritt is aiming to kickstart economic growth in 2017 by bringing an aviation-related business into the hangar located at 4494 Airport Road.

The City issued a request for expressions of interest from parties interested in leasing the hangar and surrounding land on Feb. 3 — but Chief Administrative Officer Shawn Boven said the city is going to be selective in an effort to pick a tenant who will spur growth at the airport.

“If someone wants to store an classic car collection in there, that doesn’t meet the intents and purposes of the airport.” said Boven. “We see this as a prime piece of real estate, so we’d like an anchor tenant — aside from the fire base of course — that would ultimately produce more economic activity for the city. There could be people working out of there or jobs created in town.”

But as Boven went on to note, the lease rate for the hangar is set at $30,000 per year — which means no matter who rents the hangar, the City stands to collect a significant boost to their coffers.

“That equates to a little less than half a percent of taxation,” said Boven. The City of Merritt collected $7.3 million from property taxes in 2015.

The City of Merritt took control over the hangar from the Merritt Flying Club in 2015, though the details of the transaction are still held from the public record.

“There have been some ongoing legal issues that have just been resolved,” explained Boven in regards to the sale.

The city will be accepting expressions of interest until Feb. 28, after which an applicant will be selected, said Boven.

When asked if the recent rescue of a ’69 Piper Cherokee — which had been sitting idle at the airport for 23 years — had any connection to the City’s renewed interest in spurring activity at the airstrip, Boven just laughed.

“Just a happy coincidence,” he said.