Airport looks to help development zone take off

Updated: 2013-05-16 05:07

(China Daily)

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Airport looks to help development zone take off
Cargo is loaded into a China Southern airplane at Zhengzhou airport. [Photo/Provided to China Daily]

Living in the center of China used to be fraught with danger - wars, floods and droughts were commonplace.

But today, more people are realizing that setting up a business, or your home, in the region offers a range of advantages, none more so than transport links with the rest of the country.

Many of China's major highways and railways cut right through Henan province, and most meet at Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.

Adding to the city's reputation as the region's transportation hub will be Zhengzhou airport and its nearby investment area, the Zhengzhou Airport Economic Integrated Experimental Zone.

The airport is 20 kilometers southeast of the city, and compared with some of the grandiose, stadium-like modern terminals built in other cities, Zhengzhou's looks nothing special. But its secret is not its plush passenger facilities - this airport is rapidly gaining an enviable share of the Chinese cargo market, helping it attract more and more logistics customers.

According to data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, passenger volume at Zhengzhou Airport grew 15 percent last year, compared with the national average of 9.2 percent.

But its cargo volume grew by a staggering 47 percent, compared with a national average of 3.3 percent.

Zhengzhou airport economic zone received its approval from the central government in March.

Launching the venture, Xie Fuzhan, the governor of Henan, said the zone's strategic goal is "to become an international aviation and logistics center", a gateway to the center of China, and a new growth engine for the local economy.

Various logistics companies have already sent chartered cargo flights from Zhengzhou to Europe. United Parcel Service, Russia's AirBridgeCargo, China Southern Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines all have regular services from there.

AirBridge's fleet of Boeing 747-400s has increased its services from two flights in 2007 to seven flights per week, all to Europe.

China Southern, which started handling cargo from Zhengzhou only recently, is running two flights, connecting Zhengzhou and the United States.

So far, Zhengzhou's outbound cargo still largely involves one product - smartphones, assembled at a production base operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry Ltd, better known as Foxconn, which dominates the Zhengzhou zone so far.

Jerry Teng, senior administration officer of the company's Central China branch, said the production base now has 200,000 workers after starting to recruit in 2010, and is capable of holding more. Foxconn's first batch of factories in China were all located on the coast.

Thanks to Zhengzhou's strong outbound cargo connections, Teng said Foxconn has seen no delays in the worldwide delivery of its products.

In 2012, of the airport zone's total value-added industrial output of 16.7 billion yuan, Foxconn accounted for 15.7 billion yuan, or close to 95 percent of it.

But the airport zone is certainly not content with hosting just the smartphone giant. Plans are now ongoing to enlarge its transport facilities. By 2020, the airport is expected to be able to accommodate 29 million passengers and handle 500,000 metric tons of goods annually.

Local newspapers are already brimming with excitement, comparing the eventual complex to Memphis International in the United States, which features the busiest cargo operations in the world - another airport perfectly located right in the heart of a country.