Flight plan: Airport business development rates state support
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Allegheny County is eager to start the next phase of development on land at Pittsburgh International Airport, if it can persuade state officials to provide funds for infrastructure improvements.
County officials envision a complex of office buildings, research and development space, a hotel and jet hangars on a 195-acre parcel just west of the airport. They selected the spot between the landside terminal and Interstate 376 because it is the tract closest to the airport, which they hope will make it possible to capitalize on potential international business, trade and investment.
That's an idea that makes sense, and one that fits in with Gov. Tom Corbett's frequent characterization that Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas deposits could make it the next Saudi Arabia as a fossil fuel supplier.
The site already is part of a designated foreign trade zone, which brings tax advantages to companies that locate within it. For example, they can import goods used to create new products without paying import fees. The zone, which includes 17 sites throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, was established in 1977 by the Regional Industrial Development Authority.
The county also hopes to take advantage of another designation, that of "world trade center." The World Trade Center Association licenses regions around the globe as facilities or entities that focus on promoting international commerce, but the local license has been defunct for some years. However, Allegheny County's Industrial Development Authority still owns the name and has continued to pay $10,000 per year to keep the affiliation current.
Dennis Davin, the county's economic development director, said one question he typically is asked during trade missions is whether the Pittsburgh area has a world trade center, so membership can be an important marketing tool for a region soliciting international business.
Transforming the center's status from one that exists only on paper to a productive business complex is the goal. But it will advance only if Gov. Corbett first agrees to provide $15 million in initial funding, through the state's $125 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
The airport proposal faces competition for the state money from other projects, including development of the former Mellon Arena site in Pittsburgh. But the county makes a persuasive case for the airport plan, and it should get a receptive ear from state officials.
First Published July 16, 2012 12:00 am