The Greater Waterbury region got a boost Monday in efforts to attract businesses when the Connecticut Airport Authority unanimously approved a plan to promote economic development near the Waterbury-Oxford Airport.
The creation of a "business enterprise zone," which was approved after more than two years of discussion and several setbacks, would give companies tax breaks and possibly other incentives to develop around the Oxford airport. The project would add jobs, bring about more business growth and generate new state and municipal taxes, officials say. The enterprise zone bill will also expanded tax incentives for businesses in the area of the airport.
The project has been a major focus of the legislative efforts of State Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, and State Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford, for the past three years. The plan was set to be approved in 2011 but was vetoed that year by Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat who was in the midst of trying to set up the airport authority to oversee all of the state's airports. A big portion of that commission's task is to utilize the airports as destinations for people and businesses.
“It’s just the type of message we should be sending to the private sector," Kane said in a news release. “We’ve got to do all we can to promote economic development and job creation in Connecticut. The zone’s creation sends a clear, straightforward message to the business community that we are committed to growing jobs. It’s a positive step, and a welcome one. We thank state officials for taking this action.”
Labriola called it "tremendous news for the people of Oxford and the surrounding area."
"This creates an engine for economic growth and will allow the airport and the entire region to reach its full potential," he said.
Kane and Labriola have long said that on top of the airport access, the close proximity to Route 8 and Interstate 84 makes the airport very attractive to developers.
"This is truly just the beginning," Kane said. "We already know businesses have inquired and are interested in the area. Now, we can start talking to them and bring some jobs to the area that can be a big boon for the town and region."
Kane believes the ancillary benefits of the zone will be that new businesses and corportations will help small businesses like gas stations, restaurants, delis, construction workers, etc.
Though some residential neighbors of the airport worry that bringing new jobs to the area will significantly increase air traffic, Kane does not believe that will be a problem and said it's not expected to increase the number of flights.
And, he said, he's hoping that the federal sequester cuts that threatened to take the air traffic control tower from the Oxford airport will not come to fruition.
"We just saw a tragic accident at Tweed," he said. "My hope is that we put safety of airports first and ahead of other priorities. I think that will happen; I think cooler heads will prevail on that."
Oxford First Selectman George Temple said he's glad cooler heads prevailed on government bickering over the enterprise incentive zone.
"I'm glad Oxford can finally partner with the state to create jobs and tax revenue," he said. "I'm overjoyed that this has finally happened. Over the last two years that we've been waiting for this to happen, we've missed out on a lot of economic development opportunities. I'm confident this will change that."
About the Airport
Located five miles west of Waterbury, the Waterbury-Oxford Airport houses the highest concentration of general aviation activity in the state and provides maintenance, fuel, aircraft storage, and support facilities to meet the demand of corporate jets and single- and multi-engine aircraft. In 2010, the airport contributed more than 2,374 direct and indirect jobs and $235.4 million in economic activity, including $113.9 million of labor income, and $7.9 million in state tax revenues. An estimated 6,500 aircraft used the airport in 2010.
- Source: Gov. Dannel Malloy's office