Groton airport development zone could create more than 7,500 jobs

Groton — The proposed airport development zone around Groton-New London Airport could create as many as 7,560 permanent jobs if approved, according to the town's application for the zone.

Groton calculated the job growth using the consulting services of Connecticut Economic Research Center Inc. for the town's application to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

The application looked at property that's developed and could be expanded, as well as all available land in the area. If the zone were approved and all available land developed, the application estimates it would generate 7,560 permanent jobs, 2,175 other jobs, $3.8 million in state income taxes from permanent employees and $1.7 million in annual property taxes to Groton.

The state responded within days of receiving Groton's application and requested more information, which the town submitted Oct. 7.

"They want to make sure that if they approve this program, it's going to be net positive to the state," said Paige Bronk, manager of Economic and Community Development for Groton. "It was clearly obvious that this is entirely net positive. It would be wise for the state to approve it for the state of Connecticut, and for this region and for Groton."

Bronk believes the state will notify the town of its decision before the end of the year. Groton has the jobs, workforce, transportation system and location for economic development around an airport, he said.

The zone would provide tax breaks to manufacturing and other businesses that locate within a 2-mile radius of the airport. Manufacturing, industrial servicing, warehousing or airport-related businesses in the zone could be eligible to receive a tax exemption of 80 percent of assessed value for five years.

The application did not estimate cost in dollars but generally described it as limited, as most initial expansion would occur in existing buildings and much would be privately funded. Public costs would fall into two categories: Short-term, limited improvements in areas like roads and long-term services related to population growth, the application said.

Properties around the airport are well served by existing roads but might need to be connected to state routes and the interstate highway, the application said. Other changes, such as additional turn lanes, could be needed, along with increased maintenance of the airport.

"Beyond that, there may also be the need for other water service, electrical and telecommunications (e.g., broadband) improvements for new businesses, although these costs are expected to be nominal and, in many cases, the responsibility of the businesses rather than the town," the application said.

Long-term costs are expected to be the result of population growth and associated services, such as public schools, safety and other town and state services, the application said.

The proposed zone would extend 2 miles in every direction from the perimeter of the airport, and would include key areas of the city, such as Electric Boat.

If approved, Groton would be the third community to have such a zone. Bradley Airport and Waterbury-Oxford Airport also have designated zones.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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