With nearly a decade having passed since the American military left Iceland, there are some 115 companies based on the old base, with 800 staff. Over the next three years, it is hoped that the number of people working in the old high security zone will top 1,200.
These companies and workers are over and above those working on the site of Keflavík International Airport itself. Activity at the airport has been growing quickly and this year it is expected the number of staff working there will exceed 6,500, RÚV reports.
The military left in September 2006, leaving behind around 350,000 square meters of buildings of all types—including 200,000 square meters of residential space in the form of 2,000 apartments. In 2006 there were roughly 900 Americans and Icelanders working at the base; though that number had been much higher a few years before.
The Keflavík Airport Development Company was charged with renovating and reinvigorating the base, but the 2008 financial crash made selling properties extremely difficult for a while. Its director, Kjartan Eiríksson, says that the project is now on the right track, having sold roughly two thirds of the assets it intends to sell off.
“We had a very good year when we started and sales went well. The bottom fell out of the property market after that. Although the market has been strengthening in recent years in the capital, it was really only last year that we noticed a recovery in the property market here on Suðurnes. Recent months have been going really well and the company and investors have been seeing opportunities related to the airport and the options that are here to use and develop the assets that are here. We predict that we will go a long way to selling all the assets this year,” Kjartan says.
The development company has always emphasized that commercial activity on the base should be connected to green energy, health and transport. Today there is a wide variety of companies on the base—including five of the six large data centers in Iceland.
The development company wants to ensure the airport area provides thousands of jobs, not only for people in aviation and flight operations, but also high tech jobs and roles for university educated professionals.