Airport is crucial to long-term prosperity
THE basic issue relating to Plymouth Airport is unaffected by my late entry into the debate. It is the fundamental goal of Sutton Harbour Holdings to secure the best possible return for its shareholders and there is little doubt that this will be best achieved by property development, not running a loss-making airline.
Similarly it is a primary responsibility of the council that our city has an infrastructure that can support long-term economic prosperity. Any suggestion that this does not include an airport is ludicrous.
When Algram Group Ltd, the company I am responsible for, was first acquired by a major international company in 1996 the direct flight from Plymouth to Heathrow was still open. Irrespective of short-term profitability of Brymon Airways at that time, visits to Algram by senior officers from Tokyo were commonplace and significant investment in the company was secured, leading to development and growth of the business to the extent that about 140 local staff are now employed and significant demand for local products and services has been created.
Three times in the last year planned visits by senior Olympus staff to Algram have been cancelled due to logistics problems involved in travelling to Plymouth. Many visits to other European facilities, as well as Cardiff, went ahead due to the availability of local airports. My own ability to visit customers and other business partners as readily as I would wish is compromised by the demise of Air Southwest. It is not difficult to see where this will lead when these issues are accumulated through other local businesses. Plymouth's economic development is in reverse and will inevitably decline, especially against a backdrop of other, more ambitious cities throughout Europe which are investing in their infrastructure.
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The evaluation of the airport must be based on the macroeconomic impact on the region in the mid to long term, not on the profit and loss account of an individual operator. If this needs some public investment, local or national, it must be provided despite current constraints. That said, the proposal from Viable should surely be given a fair hearing.
Since living in Plymouth I have been bombarded by strategic plans, vision statements, consultancy studies, image studies and the like which have lined the pockets of consultants but delivered nothing tangible to the well-being of the city. Spend no more on this nonsense – reserve the funds to invest in an infrastructure which supports the local business community and secures the economic prosperity of the city in the long term. This must include an airport.
Managing Director Algram Group Ltd