President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation Kelly Fredericks said it was a “painful experience,” but he had no choice but to fly out of Boston’s Logan last Tuesday.
Airlines serving Green don’t offer trans-Atlantic flights, and Fredericks was a member of the governor’s delegation traveling to Ireland and Italy.
The trade mission, however, could be the prelude to flights across “the pond” to Ireland and a good deal, more according to Fredericks. He would welcome that.
In terms of the Green Airport, Fredericks was looking for opportunities to gain passenger traffic and cargo. He can imagine a relationship with Ireland West Airport Knock, and he returned with a letter of intent with the Shannon Airport Authority. The RIAC board, he said, approved the letter within the last month.
But the delegation comprised of Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Executive Director Marcel Valois and Donald R. Sweitzer, chairman of GTECH Corporation, was also looking to cultivate business opportunities in both Ireland and Italy.
“Those guys worked like dogs,” Fredericks said of the delegation. “I was there for two days and I was exhausted.” Fredericks didn’t make the Italian leg of the trip.
“Rhode Island needs to continue to strengthen our role in global economic discussions. Throughout our country, states are looking beyond their borders to the international community to entice businesses to set up shop in their cities and towns. Companies want to do business in Rhode Island,” Chafee said in a statement.
“There were a number of businesses that wanted to do business here,” said Fredericks.
Green Airport is capable of accommodating trans-Atlantic flights now, but with completion of a runway extension, making Green’s main runway 8,700 feet by late 2017, the airport could more comfortably handle nonstop flights across country, as well as to European destinations. Fredericks said with an 8,700-foot runway, Green could accommodate nonstop service to Italy.
As a consultant for airline industry, Fredericks has made 67 flights to European countries, he had never visited Ireland. He said the beauty of the country and the hospitality extended to the delegation entranced him. In Dublin they met with Prime Minister Enda Kenny for 90 minutes.
Fredericks said such tours often involve a lot of informal exchange and small talk that is helpful in getting to know people. He said this trip was “focused with a real business emphasis, very real stuff.”
According to a release from the governor’s office, those companies visited included manufacturing, transportation, food production, hospitality, renewable energy and technology.
Fredericks saw opportunities with both airports he visited. As Shannon shares the same air service development consultant as Green, InterVISTAS, he said there is a “unique partnership opportunity.”
A Canadian company, InterVISTAS Consulting provides clients with expertise in market research, business and strategic planning, market and air services development, economic and regulatory studies, security and facilitation, site master planning and advertising sales and research according to its website.
This is not the first time air service between Green and Ireland has been mentioned.
“Ireland has been on our radar for quite some time,” he said.
Ryan Air has been identified as a potential carrier, but as the airline currently doesn’t provide trans-Atlantic service, Fredericks believes if it were to happen, service with Ryan is three to five years away.
Nonetheless, Fredericks is enthused by developing relationships in Ireland as well as Italy, which have “far reaching implications for Rhode Island companies.”
In the letter of intent signed by Chafee and RIAC board chair Jonathan Savage, the state pledges “its commitment towards the goals of researching passenger and cargo routes, mutual economic growth and meaningful exchange” between the two airports.
“Rhode Island must be in the game. We must continue to connect with the global market to develop new opportunities that will help our business community thrive. With our diverse business framework and strategic location in the Northeast, Rhode Island is well-positioned to increase international trade which will strengthen the state’s economy and create jobs,” Valois said in a statement.
“Rhode Island has made the right investments in T.F. Green Airport, freight rail and our ports which gives us the capability to connect people and cargo overseas and across the United States. These are very attractive selling points when we talk to businesses and leaders in potential new markets.”
While in Rome, the delegation also visited the Rhode Island School of Design’s campus – housed in a centuries-old palazzo – to meet with faculty and students who are studying abroad for the semester as part of the school’s European Honors Program.
Costs of the business trip are still being assembled and will be released when available. It will be paid for by the State of Rhode Island.