OXFORD — He vetoed a similar bill in 2011, but earlier this year Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation that creates an enterprise zone around the Waterbury-Oxford Airport.
Outside the Pentastar hangar Monday, Malloy said he felt the creation of an enterprise zone in 2011 would have been premature because it would have predated the creation of the Connecticut Airport Authority. The authority oversees the operations and marketing of Bradley International Airport and the five regional airports, including the Waterbury-Oxford Airport.
It also would have predated the hiring of “a very experienced airport official,” Malloy said, referring to Kevin Dillon, the executive director of the authority. “I felt we needed to do these things in an order.”
On July 8, 2011, the decision to veto the legislation left at least one lawmaker scratching his head. On Monday, Sen. Rob Kane, the lawmaker who was “shocked” by the 2011 veto, declined to comment on whether he thought it was party politics that delayed the creation of the enterprise zone.
“No comment,” Kane, a Republican from Watertown, told reporters following the governor’s press conference.
But that’s not to say the delay in creating a package of tax incentives for a defined geographic area didn’t have an impact.
“We’ve had a number of businesses on the sidelines waiting for approval of this zone,” Kane said Monday. “So we may have missed an opportunity or so because of that.”
He said he doesn’t have any specifics about businesses that have expressed interest and fled because the tax incentives didn’t yet exist. However, he said he’d heard from local Oxford officials that there were a few that got away.
Malloy maintained that the state Department of Economic and Community Development stayed on top of the issue before the creation of the zone. He said the state promoted the airport while it was waiting for the authority and the zone to be established. It even tried to offer up the area as a good spot for a “customer fulfillment center” to locate its operations.
Even though he didn’t mention them by name, it was clear that Malloy was alluding to Internet retail giant Amazon, which has expressed interest in towns located in the Bradley Airport Enterprise Zone.
Of the five regional airports, the Waterbury-Oxford Airport “is the largest, most active, busiest, does the most business, and it made great sense to begin here,” Malloy said.
In 2010, the airport contributed more than 2,374 direct and indirect jobs and $235.4 million in economic activity, including $113.9 million in labor income and $7.9 million in state tax revenue. An estimated 6,500 aircraft used the airport in 2010, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Bradley and Waterbury-Oxford are thus far the only two airports to be located in an enterprise zone.
There are two business incentives offered in an enterprise zone. The first is a five-year, 80-percent abatement of local property taxes on both real and personal property. The second is a 10-year, 25 to 50 percent credit on a portion of the state’s corporation business tax.