Airport proposal is big deal for Findlay
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With county agencies proposing a 195-acre trade center at Pittsburgh International Airport, local officials say they want to be involved in the plan, which eventually could reap rewards for the community coffers.
Most of the land slated for development is in Findlay, where township officials say partnerships among local and county agencies already have been successful in attracting industry.
Ray Chappell, a Findlay supervisor, said the joint approach to development should continue, but county agencies have not kept municipal officials informed about their plans to establish a so-called aerotropolis around the airport.
"We have a very, very good zoning ordinance, and we've been very successful with companies coming in here," Mr. Chappell said. "How can they improve on it? I don't know."
More than one million square feet of office buildings, research and development space, a hotel and jet hangars would be built and designated as a licensed World Trade Center to facilitate international business.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority and the county's economic development authorities are planning to develop a 195-acre tract to the west of the passenger terminal, near the Clinton interchange of Interstate 376. Land preparation and cleanup were estimated at $32 million.
Findlay manager Gary Klingman said the idea of an aerotropolis has been bounced around for many years, and the township previously was involved in discussions.
At the time, he said, Findlay objected to the county's plan to build a new "bureaucracy" to handle the project -- an arrangement that would have excluded the entities who normally partner on developments.
"That was our biggest beef with the issue of aerotropolis," Mr. Klingman said.
"We think we should be involved in that whole initiative, and we seem to be sort of on the sidelines watching things happen."
Mr. Klingman said if fully realized, the development eventually could spawn a significant amount of jobs and tax money.
"There's a cost to doing that, to getting everything there, but I think it's a wise investment," he said.
Additional employment would yield the township more revenues from the earned income tax and the $52-a-year local services tax, he said.
Plus, once developed for private business, the airport authority's formerly tax-exempt land would begin generating real estate tax revenues.
"You're taking something you were getting nothing from, and making it a productive piece of property on the tax rolls," Mr. Klingman said.
He said the proposed trade center would complement other industrial developments in the township, such as the Dick's Sporting Goods headquarters, Clinton Commerce Park and Findlay Industrial Park, which were established thanks to cooperation among the county, the township, West Allegheny School District and the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.
"It's a winning combination," Mr. Klingman said. "It's worked."
In March, the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties honored Findlay with a Supporter of Development award for the township's role in attracting business parks to the airport region.
First Published July 12, 2012 12:00 am