Incentives key to developing Ireland West Airport as an economic hub

Getting tax incentives in place to attract industry and commerce to set up around Ireland West Airport is the key future of the development of the airport, it was outlined again this week. Joe Gilmore, managing director of Ireland West Airport Knock, addressed the February meeting of the economic development and enterprise support strategic policy committee of Mayo County Council on Wednesday afternoon in the airport.

Mr Gilmore outlined that while the transportation link is the first aspect of the airport’s aims, there is still a serious ambition to turn the airport into an economic hub of industry and job creation. He told the meeting: “There have been various attempts to create employment and development in close proximity to the airport over the years. There have been various attempts over the years to put in place a strategic development zone and put incentives in place to get businesses to locate there. There is a vision, and there remains a vision, that this airport could have 10,000 jobs located beside it.”

He went on to say: “That still remains the vision, it may be difficult to achieve that, but it’s still the vision and we have to believe we can achieve that. There have been various attempts to do that. In the last six years there have been various reports completed and in 2010 we had one by the WDC. In the tenure of the last Government we went in with Shannon Development who were experts in building and managing business parks, there was a big report completed at this time. We have since completed a report with the Government in 2013 on the future of the airport. All those reports did an enormous level of research and analysis and work on it. They identified various areas of jobs and economic development, both here at the airport and related to the airport, such as pilot training, aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services, activities you’ll see at other major airports like Dublin and Shannon. This airport is ideal for these kind of services.”

Chairperson of the committee Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said:“It’s a disappointment that no kind of tax free zone or the like is being put in place here like they did in Shannon in the 1950s, because this could be the centre of activity for the region. But the if the incentives are put in place here, the industries won’t come. Executives could jet in here in the morning, check out their business, and be gone again the afternoon.”

Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway Walsh added: “You have the factors of production there, you have the land and the labour, it’s just about the injection of capital that you need. What can we do to lobby for the tax incentives you need here at home or in Europe?”

Independent Westport based councillor Christy Hyland told the meeting that he was in no doubt that if Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring was the senior minister in his department, the airport would not have to go looking for money. He said: “If Ring was in charge in the Department of Transport, Knock Airport wouldn’t be asking for money, Knock Airport would have the money and that’s the bottom line.”

Fine Gael councillor Neil Cruise asked Mr Gilmore: “Are you happy with the Government’s efforts on behalf of Knock Airport?” He received criticism from a number of members of the committee for asking the question. Mr Gilmore responded: “I’ll be reluctant to comment on some of the issues, there is a lot of political discourse taking place on the airport for the last three years in terms of its future, a lot of meetings have taken place in different forums.” He added: “It’s an issue of national policy, I could go around the table and challenge individual political opinions on it and ask what’s their national party’s policy on the airport, what have they now we’re 12 months out from an election and what is their written policy on the airport and the future.”

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