Incentive lands at Waterbury-Oxford Airport

December 16, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Waterbury Republican-American

OXFORD — Business opportunities have increased here since an economic development incentive zone has been created at Waterbury-Oxford Airport.

Three towns now have tracts of land included in that zone at the state-owned airport.

The zone encompasses a two-mile radius around the airport, and towns within that radius can request census tracts to be included in it, officials have said. Zoning also has to be appropriate for the activity proposed.

In August, the Connecticut Airport Authority’s board of directors unanimously approved the economic development incentive zone at the airport. That vote approved Oxford and Middlebury census tracts.

A month later, the board of directors unanimously approved Southbury census blocks after the town requested the land to be included.

However, Southbury is asking to revise one of those blocks, and the airport authority is checking to see if that would require another vote, or if it can be an administrative change, said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.

Under the program, businesses can apply for a five-year, 80 percent abatement of local property taxes on real and personal property, as well as a 10-year, 25- to 50-percent credit on a portion of the state’s corporation tax.

Oxford Economic Development Director Andrew McGeever said since an October symposium at 121 Restaurant & Bar at the airport, several economic development opportunities have surfaced.

One major broker currently is working with two German companies interested in locating in the zone, he said.

“An awful lot has to do with the incentives that the zone is offering,” McGeever said. “That is a key word in all the phraseology of the zone, the incentives.” Another key factor is the central location, which is close to Interstate 84 and other major highways, he said.

McGeever declined to name the companies, but said one is technology and the other is pharmaceutical.

B. United International, an imported beer distributor and microbrewery that has been here for six years, has grown from 6,000 square feet to almost 18,000 square feet, McGeever said.

It now has purchased adjoining property and is in the initial stages of constructing a 25,000 square-foot building in the zone, he said.

A small machinery manufacturing company in New Haven County is negotiating for land with a property owner in the zone to build a 60,000 square-foot to 75,000 square-foot complex for manufacturing, storage and administration, McGeever said.

The Hurley Group of New Haven also has two lots on Morse Road, and it’s in the beginning stages of building 30,000 square feet of flex space in the zone, he said.

In addition, three small manufacturing companies in town are contemplating whether they will build large enough to warrant being part of the incentive programs, McGeever said.

The cornerstone of the zone will be Technology Park, a development of 1 million square feet of office space that would straddle the Middlebury-Oxford line, he said.

McGeever said since the zone was announced in August, Pilot’s Mall, an affiliate of Omega Engineering of Stamford, has made a major investment to the entrances and exits of that property, and land on the corner of Route 188 will be cleared so the property can be more visible.

Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown, who sought to create the zone for three years, said state and local officials now are just waiting for the new year to arrive to get refocused on promoting the zone in a more aggressive way.

The airport lies mostly in Oxford, with a small portion extending into Middlebury. It has a daily average of 137 takeoffs and landings, and there are 209 aircraft at the airport.

In September, the Southbury Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to put several commercial parcels near the airport in the economic development zone.

Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson said, “I would say we look forward to working with our neighboring towns of Oxford and Middlebury and others to collaborate on how best to go about developing the zone and the best interests of all communities.”

Woodbury and Naugatuck have smaller tracts that fall within the two-mile radius, officials have reported. Dillon said they haven’t requested to have those tracts included.

Naugatuck has about 450 acres of eligible land within the two-mile radius, but it’s all zoned residential, said Glenda Prentiss, geographic information system coordinator of the Council of Governments Central Naugatuck Valley.

However, the zone just touches the southeast point of the Woodbury boundary, and doesn’t include any of that town’s land, Prentiss said.

Middlebury First Selectman Edward B. St. John said town officials were still trying to determine how the zone worked within the town’s borders and he was unaware of any company looking to open within the zone.

“As of now, we’ve had no inquiries,” St. John said.