BANGOR, Maine — The City of Bangor’s plan to renovate a hangar at Bangor International Airport, which will allow C&L Aerospace to expand and hire more employees, just moved one step closer to reality.

The city received word Tuesday that its application for financial assistance to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration was selected through a competitive review process to move to the next stage of consideration, according to Tanya Pereira, Bangor’s economic development specialist.

Specifically, the city applied to the EDA’s competitive Public Works Program for $579,000 to help it renovate an existing hangar at BIA into a aircraft paint facility, which would allow C&L to expand its services and hire an additional 20 employees, Pereira said. The total project will cost nearly $1.16 million, she said.

The news doesn’t mean the funds are a done deal, but it’s still a reason to celebrate, Pereira said. “There is still a little more to go, but it’s as good as crossing home plate for all our purposes,” she said on Thursday.

The city must provide additional information about the project by Nov. 20, after which the EDA will make a final determination. Pereira hopes the city will know by January.

C&L Aerospace in 2010 took over Telford Aviation’s aircraft maintenance and repair operation at BIA. In two years it has grown from 22 to 80 employees and maxed out its current space at the airport.

In December, CEO Chris Kilgour moved C&L’s global headquarters from Brisbane, Australia, to Bangor. “It made sense for us because we had the facility and there are a lot of good people here,” Kilgour said at the time. “I find that the work ethic of people in Maine is really good.”

The paint facility is just one portion of the expansion the city is working on with the company, Pereira said. Two existing hangars are being renovated that will in the future house the company’s current aircraft maintenance and repair business. An office building will be built that connects those two hangars. The hangar the company currently occupies will be renovated into the paint facility.

In total, the expansion will allow C&L to grow to 150 employees, Pereira said.

“We think Bangor is well positioned for aviation businesses,” Pereira said, adding that the size of BIA makes it ripe for opportunity. “We have this great asset and it’s always been a goal to build on that asset to create economic development opportunities.”

Sen. Susan Collins wrote to the EDA in October to support Bangor’s application.

“The City of Bangor’s project … will bring many needed jobs to the Bangor area and provide substantial economic benefits to this area for years to come,” Collins wrote.

She also noted the competitive advantage C&L will have in Bangor if the paint facility is made a reality. “Bangor is a perfect location in which to develop an aircraft paint service,” Sen. Collins wrote. “The closest facility providing paint service for the types of aircraft serviced by C&L is in Tennessee; sources have told me that this facility has closed or will be closing soon. Moreover, Bangor is the closest major U.S. airport to Europe and C&L will continue to draw business from that region. This is an advantage unique to Bangor.”

Rep. Mike Michaud also wrote in support of the city’s application. “If C&L is able to perform aircraft painting services as well as repair and maintenance at the same airport, their customers will be able to receive complete service in one location and get their planes back in the air much sooner — a key consideration in the aviation business,” Rep. Michaud wrote

Pereira said the city will have no problem providing the EDA with the additional information in requested by the Nov. 20 deadline.

But what if the city doesn’t get the funds?

“This project is so important that we will make it happen,” Pereira said. “It’s just a matter of bringing other resources to the table.”

Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.