Hundreds of new jobs could be coming to a vacant swath of land next to Pittsburgh International Airport.
Calling the land “one of Pennsylvania’s marquee development sites,” airport officials stood alongside other local leaders during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning for the development, called the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus.
The land, nestled between Interstate 376 and the world headquarters for Dick’s Sporting Goods, contains 195 acres to the west of the airport terminal.
The open land, which has 1.4 million square feet ready for development, will include a mix of office space, research and development laboratories, and industrial manufacturing, as well as a “town center” that will feature restaurants, retail and other commercial businesses.
Long-range plans call for the Innovation Campus to be connected to the airport terminal.
The three-phase construction plan will include 16 pad-ready sites available by 2023, including three sites that are currently being primed for development. Those sites will come completely equipped for development, with utility hookups and permits already in place.
Full development of the site is expected to take about a decade, with construction of the first building taking place in about two to three years.
Dennis Davin, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, one of several officials to speak at the groundbreaking ceremony, called the Innovation Campus a “big, big deal” for the region.
“This is something we think, I think, can be transformational,” he said, adding that the development is “yet another signal to the domestic and international business community that Pittsburgh is open for business.”
The location of the Innovation Campus is expected to be a main draw for prospective companies. With quick access to interstates 376 and 576, the land is located within 20 miles of downtown Pittsburgh and within 15 miles of the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant in Potter Township.
“We haven’t seen a private sector investment like (the Shell plant) in our lifetimes,” state Rep. Mike Turzai, R-28, said during the groundbreaking ceremony, noting the strategic location of the Innovation Campus between Pittsburgh and Beaver County.
For U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-18, Mount Lebanon, the project is a perfect example of the public and private sectors working together to spur economic growth.
He also knows that the land surrounding the airport is the first thing travelers see when they land here, and that first impressions often are the most important.
“We’re making a great first impression now, but I think we can do better,” Lamb said.
Christina Cassotis, chief executive officer of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said the new development has more going for it than just its prime location. The 195 acres are licensed as a World Trade Center site and are located within a foreign-trade zone. That means companies that locate there can import goods, manufacture products and resell them outside the United States while also having relief or exemptions of certain duties and tariffs.
“This is an ideal opportunity for any company that wants to establish a global presence in the Pittsburgh region with access to taxiways and runways while realizing the economic benefits of doing business in a foreign-trade zone,” she said.
Cassotis also said the development will increase “nonaeronautical” revenues for the airport authority, which in turn could help keep costs for airlines stable, potentially creating new air service in the process.
Airport officials will now work with local and state representatives, as well the region’s universities, to identify anchor tenants for the Innovation Campus.