Bradley Can Be an Economic Driver

When most people consider the phrase ‘economic development,’ they think of companies moving into industrial parks and new office towers being built in larger metropolitan areas. If they’re well-informed, individuals will also think about workforce-development initiatives, to make sure the new tenants in the industrial parks and the office towers have an ample supply of qualified workers.
Few people mulling the subject of economic development would think of an airport as being part of that equation. But they should.
Indeed, an airport can be a key contributor to a region’s economic vitality, and for a number of reasons. These range from making it easier for people to get from here to there — a phrase that covers everything from business people getting to customers and potential customers (and vice versa) to tourists coming into an area to visit and spend money — to airport land that can become home to large employers.
Which brings us to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.
Historically, it has been a regional asset, serving both Northern Conn. and Western Mass., and it has been a factor in economic-development efforts in both states. But the reality is that it could be more of a factor, and it needs to be more of a factor.
Kevin Dillon said as much in a wide-ranging interview with BuisnessWest for the story that starts on page 6. Dillon was appointed executive director of Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA), which oversees Connecticut’s six airports, roughly a year ago.
While there are many components to Dillon’s job description, by far the most important is to take Bradley from a potential-laden airport — a description it has owned for decades — to one that is living up to all or most of that potential.
Thus far, he’s off to a good start.
He’s succeeded in convincing American Airlines to add a nonstop flight from Bradley to Los Angeles — that route commenced late last month — and there will be new routes to Florida, involving JetBlue, and Atlanta, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, starting this fall. New routes such as these make it easier for business people and tourists to get where they want to go, which means more volume for the airport, which translates into more opportunities for that airport to add services and amenities.
The next logical step is a return of trans-Atlantic service from Bradley, which existed briefly several years ago before being discontinued, due mostly to spiraling aviation fuel prices.
With trans-Atlantic service, this region becomes closer to Europe, and vice versa, a development that will ultimately benefit area companies that do business overseas, and also tourism-related ventures in this area that should be helped by the simple fact that this region will be more accessible.
But beyond new routes and all they bring, Dillon and the CAA are trying to bolster economic development around all of Connecticut’s airports, but especially Bradley, through the introduction of economic-development zones that would feature tax incentives for those who locate or expand within them.
Anyone living or doing business in this region knows that when a large employer locates or expands anywhere in the Hartford-Springfield area — or New England’s Knowledge Corridor, as it’s called — individuals, businesses, and municipalities on both sides of the border benefit.
As we said, Dillon and the CAA are off to a good start. There is still much work to do if Bradley is going to realize the vast potential it possesses and become a real force in economic development.
But early returns are promising, and from our perspective, the sky’s the limit when it comes to how much a factor Bradley can become.

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