Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Wednesday signed a bill creating the Connecticut Airport Authority, which will oversee the , and the state’s four other general aviation airports.
Surrounded by local and state officials, and business leaders, Malloy signed the bill during a ceremony at Bradley. Malloy - who said part of the reason he recently for the Oxford-based airport was because he was waiting for the airport authority to be created - said the new management structure will help the airports develop their potential as economic engines for the state, especially Bradley. Oxford officials, who were disappointed with the veto, said they are hopeful the new authority can help with economic development initiatives around the airports in the towns of Oxford, Waterbury, Middlebury and Southbury.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said everyone is painfully aware of how jobs are needed in the state.
“And it is time for this airport to achieve its potential in becoming a vital longterm source for jobs and other economic activities,” Wyman said. “Transforming this airport, and other airports in the state, into the assets they should be is long overdue.”
The state legislature this summer passed legislation creating an 11-member board overseeing the airports. The members of the board will be chosen by the governor and the legislature. The board takes seat in January.
The authority will have more autonomy, flexibility and power to make decisions and operate the airports, officials said.
Malloy said he will soon announce his choices for the board, and the business community will be well represented. Before the legislation, Bradley was run by a board of directors but was under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation.
Critics have long objected to that management structure, which they say takes too long to get things approved to be competitive with other airports.
“People are making decisions about where to land their freight or where to provide service to and from, and they’re not going to wait 60 to 90 days or six months for those decisions to be made,” Malloy said. “Nor can we go through some of the burdensome practices that led us to have a marketing gap here at the airport for over eight months. It just doesn’t make any sense.
“A new management vehicle, I believe, is the way to address that,” Malloy said.
One of the goals of the airport for a long time has been to establish regular trans-Atlantic flights from Bradley. Officials have said past efforts have been popular with local businesses.
Malloy said he has spoken to representatives from other countries that have expressed an interest in establishing such routes as part of broader global economic improvements. Malloy said he would be willing to work with anyone to create those flights, as well as long haul flights across the United States.
State Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the goal of Connecticut officials is to be jobs-and-family-friendly and that Bradley has become part of that goal.
“When you look at Bradley and compare what’s around us, “ Williams said. “Whether it comes to passenger or commercial freight travel...it is so much easier and so much more pleasurable to come to Bradley Airport as opposed to traveling through the traffic and the hassle elsewhere around us.”
Williams said Bradley Airport is going to be a critical economical driver for jobs in the state.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said the state is seeing something that has been wanted a long time thanks to the governor’s leadership and the bipartisan work of his legislative colleagues.
“This truly is a wonderful and historic day here in Connecticut,” Cafero said. “You know many of us for quite some time have believed that our fine airports here in Connecticut can be even better. We wanted to give them some freedom and flexibility and allow them to be the economic hubs of economic development that we know they can be.”
Sen. Gary Lebeau, D-East Hartford, who was a major sponsor of the legislation, said the creation of the authority means there is going to be “billions of dollars of gross state product that is going to come as a result of this effort .”
“This airport has been a very good airport and is going to be a great airport,” LeBeau said. “And I’m proud to have been part of that effort.”