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Philadelphia Airport is hoping to lure cargo from other east coast airports, particularly New York, in a ‘build it, and they will come’ strategy.

The airport has partnered with Menzies Aviation, Kale Logistics and airport investor AFCO to build new facilities and a cargo community system, which it believes will boost its freight credentials and bring in air cargo carriers.

Jim Tyrrell, chief revenue officer for PHL airport, said the partnership would help it achieve the goal of becoming “the airport of choice for logistics on the east coast”.

He added that the airport’s catchment area was ripe, with some 70% of local traffic bypassing PHL for other hubs.

“We have been turning down opportunities because of a lack of facilities. We have never had the capacity to attract new business.”

AFCO will develop a 150,000 sq ft building for Menzies.

“It was an older building that wasn’t performing, but had widebody access,” explained Mr Tyrrell on the sidelines of the Air Cargo Handling & Logistics conference in Athens today. “We will repurpose that and will have six widebody parking positions from next month.”

The airport, which has a 135-acre plot to develop, and will also build a 1m sq ft warehouse, as well as capacity for 24 widebodies, in a longer-term plan, which will take about 2.5 years to complete.

“The building is just one part,” explained Mr Tyrrell. “[Our partnerships] will help all logistic stakeholders in the region. And the technology will be powered by Kale to help ensure the transparency and efficiency that stakeholders need.”

Amar More, CEO of Kale, said the cargo community system (CCS) would “help the airport attract more cargo”, and that shippers would redirect cargo from other airports.

PHL is currently served by the integrators, but its catchment area of life science companies and e-commerce is expected to boost pharma and other traffic. “Philadelphia is booming with life science companies, and we will be putting in solutions for different products, but there will be pharma corridors and we’ll also offer solutions for the oil and gas industry,” said Mr Tyrrell.

Menzies has been scouting secondary airports in the US and head of cargo Robert Fordree said PHL “hit the sweet spot”.

“We don’t want traditional cargo gateways, we want airports that are willing to invest, and we will be working with a developer we know and trust, as well as working with Kale whom we also know and trust.

“We want to bring in new operators to this market, in conjunction with the airport, and we will be leveraging our global airline contracts.”

The CCS, which will ease processes such as truck wait times, is expected to attract traffic that currently “passes 400ft in front of our airport, to go to other east coast airports”, said Mr Tyrrell.

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