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Project underway at Grand Sky

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GRAND FORKS - As drones are a threat to border security, a massive expansion project is underway at Grand Sky.

A threat lurking at our Northern border, with people waiting and watching border patrol agents.

"Potentially nefarious drones for surveillance,” said Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen. "Unfortunately either to then take action against the men and women who are trying to protect our border or to evade them."

It's a major drawback of drone technology.

The Department of Homeland Security's Secretary says they have few options for dealing with drones.

"It gives them the upper  hand if you will to be able to sneak nefarious things across the border. Whether it be weapons we have not seen," Secretary Nielsen said.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited Grand Sky to learn about the cutting edge technology.

But how unmanned aircraft systems work is still something she's figuring out.

Reporter Kenneth Chase asked Nielsen what she learned today that she did not know before.

"You know I wasn't sure I was quite aware. And when you think about it, it's obvious. But I wasn't quite sure that I was aware that we can have pilots and systems in North Dakota and then we can use, from here, we can conducts my mission set throughout the country,” said Nielsen.  

Today's discussion comes with an announcement by General Atomics.  

The company is planning to increase their footprint, investing at least $20 million dollars into a new hangar.

"We're now at about just over 30 direct employees, direct general atomics people here. And with next year's hangar we're going to go to around 50,” said General Atomics Co-owner, Linden Blue.

The project comes as experts predict a crunch.

WDAY News discovered the industry is expected to be 14,000 pilots short.

The new project set to be built here, could give pilots from all over the world a place to learn.

"Folks from Spain Italy the Netherlands, all kinds of NATO countries would be able to come here for training,” said President of Grand Sky Development Company, Tom Swoyer.

With about 130 people working at Grand Sky today -- the park is far short of the thousands of jobs initially promised.

But the president says they're meeting goals.

"We're still behind on the jobs but in terms of building on the park we're probably about 1/5 20 percent or so done. We're on pace. We're on target,” said Swoyer.

They're hoping a big investment will change the industry and the area forever.

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