Proposal to give Bradley board more power picks up support

While running for governor, Dannel P. Malloy insisted that Bradley International Airport should become more nimble to compete for air traffic and generate economic activity. Now, the legislature is reviving an old idea to achieve that goal: a bill giving the airport’s governing board more autonomy.

Eric J. Brown, associate council of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association testified at a public hearing before the Transportation Committee this week that the idea “has been an issue for several years,” but he expressed optimism that a new governor could improve chances of passage.

“We have a governor who also recognizes that it’s important to expand the flexibility of the board,” he said.

It is critical that the airport be able to achieve its significant potential “as an economic engine for not only the region, but the state of Connecticut and beyond,” Brown said.

Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a private pilot and former chairman of the Board of Directors of Bradley International Airport, agreed.

“I’ve always considered Bradley International Airport to be a caged tiger,” Frantz said.

The Department of Transportation does a great job “operationally” and is “incredibly well managed on the runway side,” Frantz said. But the other side of Bradley, the marketing and business side, “has yet to meet its potential,” he said.

Airports today are generating great economic and transportation benefits across the country, Frantz said.

Suffield’s Director of Economic Development Patrick McMahon, also a member of the Bradley Development League, spoke in favor of the bill saying that Bradley is a flagship commercial airport and is New England’s second largest as well.

“The Bradley Board of Directors needs to have the power and tools to act quickly and effectively,” McMahon said.

Sandra Johnson, vice president and director of business development for the MetroHartford Alliance said that Bradley needs “to be nimble and to be able to achieve its potential.”

This bill embraces the vision of Bradley becoming a center of commerce and development and getting the leverage it needs to compete with other airports, Johnson said.

Giving the Board more power will promote economic development and job growth, Johnson said.

To Johnson, Bradley is at a disadvantage and “has been potentially missing out on opportunities to grow based on this lack of autonomy,” she said. “It is critical that we focus on legislation that is low cost and high impact in regard to long-term economic development.”