Mr Thompstone spoke at Shannon Chamber’s spring lunch on Tuesday and noted that the town’s industrial base includes top companies such as Intel, GE, Element Six, Zimmer and EI Electronics.
Speaking on the amalgamation of the Free Zone and the airport, he said, “There are two recommendations I would make on how the Shannon Free Zone should be integrated into the new Shannon Airport Authority.
“First, I agree with the focus Rose Hynes and her team are placing on the development of an International Aviation Services Centre at Shannon. It makes sense to build on the cluster of aviation businesses that already exist in Shannon in activities such as aircraft leasing, maintenance repair and overhaul or technical services. But it is also essential to secure a continuing supply of mobile investment in the other sectors I have already mentioned.
“A multi-sectoral approach will ensure Shannon is not overexposed to the cyclical nature of the aviation industry; that when one sector is experiencing a downturn there is the potential for others to sustain growth and that we build on the success and skills base that is already in place.
“Secondly, it is essential that a business development team is in place to seek out, engage with and secure mobile investment opportunities from these sectors,” he said.
He added that there is a “need to have a business development team in place whose job when they wake up every day is to get in front of potential investors and persuade them to invest in and develop their business in Shannon”.
Mr Thompstone, who served as chief executive of Shannon Development for eight years, said he is somewhat disappointed that the old structure is going.
“Having worked with Shannon Development for so many years, I regret the fact that the voice and model for regional development is effectively being dismantled. At the same time I can see that there is a choice to be made between the need for wider regional development and a strong and concentrated drive to secure the future of Shannon Airport.
“Shannon Airport is a significant asset and crucial to the growth of the region. A strong, globally trading region must have viable and sustainable international air access.
“It is vital that all available resources are concentrated and focused on this requirement. In this sense, Shannon is returning to its roots. In the late-1950s, when there was a threat to the future of the airport, the Shannon Free Zone was invented as a way of generating new airport traffic. Today, the challenge and the opportunity is to reinvent the Free Zone for the same purpose. I have no doubt that all involved with the delivery of this new mission through a newly independent, well-resourced and clearly focussed Shannon Airport Authority will succeed.”