Upgrading Fort Pierce, Florida's Kings Highway

Continental Hub Expansion in Works at Cleveland Hopkins

Tue September 25, 2007 - Midwest Edition
CEG



CLEVELAND (AP) Continental Airlines Inc. announced an expansion of its Midwest hub at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, a move the state has encouraged through incentives Sept. 14.

Continental was expected to reveal its plans at a Sept. 14 meeting in Cleveland involving airline, city and state officials, The Plain Dealer reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the plans.

“I’m assuming that meeting is for good news,” said House Finance Chairman Matthew Dolan, a suburban Cleveland Republican, who planned to attend.

Continental had asked the state to help fund the expansion, which would include construction of new ticketing and passenger reception areas. The state responded with a $16 million combination of grants, loans, tax credits and hiring services.

State officials were concerned that Houston-based Continental might instead choose to expand its hub in Newark, N.J., or Houston.

A $50 million expansion would mean potentially hundreds of jobs and more flights at Hopkins where Continental is the most active carrier and employs more than 2,000 people.

Melissa Ament, an Ohio Department of Development spokeswoman, on Sept. 12 said the state has been working on incentive plans with Continental for some time.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 70 percent, 10-year tax credit for Continental Airlines on July 30. The tax credit was for the creation of 711 full-time jobs and contingent on Continental maintaining operations at Hopkins for 20 years.

Under the proposal, the average wage of the jobs would be $24.76 an hour and the tax credit would begin in January.

Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark declined to comment. Messages left Sept. 12 for Andrea Taylor, press secretary for Mayor Frank Jackson were not returned.

Gov. Ted Strickland planned to speak with the airline’s executives Sept. 14 in Cleveland, his office confirmed.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey could not confirm whether hub expansion was the topic.

Dolan, who earmarked $1.5 million in the state budget for Continental hub growth said he expects an announcement that will help Cleveland on a number of levels.

“If they are doing that, it will be a wonderful shot in the arm for our economy in the short term, in the jobs it will create, and in the long-term, greater accessibility the world will have to Cleveland and Cleveland will have to the world.”