Yankee Air Museum kicks off fundraising for Willow Run bomber plant purchase
Chelsea Hoedl | AnnArbor.com
The Yankee Air Museum Thursday night launched a $5 million fundraising campaign that it hopes will end in saving a portion of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant from the wrecking ball.
The museum, which suffered a devastating fire at its original location in 2004, hopes to acquire and renovate approximately 150,000 square feet of the World War II-era factory, which was later the GM Powertrain facility. The bomber plant manufactured B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II.
Revitalizing Automotive Communities Environmental Response (RACER), current owner of the property, has agreed to give Yankee Air Museum, now located at Willow Run Airport, and the Michigan Aerospace Foundation until August first to come up with the $8 million necessary to purchase the land and begin renovations. Thursday evening’s event was held to jump start a three month intensive fundraising program. RACER is a trust established to sell the property and other former General Motors facilities.
Michael Montgomery, fundraising consultant, said that about $5 million has already been raised through the Michigan Aerospace Foundation and about $1/2 million has already been raised by Yankee Air Museum. Roughly $3 million of funds already raised will go towards the final $8 million needed, leaving $5 million left to be raised Norton said.
“The campaign going forward from here has three primary elements,” Montgomery said. “A classic large gifts, large donors campaign that we’re going to look to for about 60% of the money. Then we’re going to look in the middle range to get about another 20%. ... Then there is the broad-based effort; the community support. Really tying in to the geographic communities of this region, but also the communities of interest: the aviation community, the history community. We’ll be looking to them for the last 20%.”
The museum and Michigan Aerospace Foundation also launched their fundraising website earlier Thursday.
Museum Chairman Ray Hunter announced the possibility of obtaining a Ford built B-24 to be displayed at the museum. The museum has been in contact with the National Museum of the United States Air Force regarding the possible acquisition, but no final arrangement has been made.
Speakers discussed the importance of obtaining the Willow Run Powertrain Plant and what it would do for both the museum and the community.
“What’s it going to do for us? We’ll have access to the airport for a flyable aircraft. Everybody’s going to be under one roof, and we’ll have a true museum that’s once again open to the public,” Hunter said. “It’s a historic building that is worth saving and for local folks, we would have the capacity to do a convention with over 1,000 people.”
MAF President Dennis Norton said the project will have educational benefits for the community and the renovation and a potential increase in tourist traffic could create jobs.
Speakers asked those attending to help in any way they can. Those interested in making a contribution can visit the website.