Defence chiefs have held detailed talks with business leaders in Moray over plans to sell off parts of RAF Kinloss to the private sector.
About a dozen companies are understood to have inquired about moving into the 1,828-acre base if the incoming Army units do not need all the land.
Oil and gas industry firms are believed to be among a “number of sectors” to have expressed an interest in the site.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed last night that they had been holding discussions over the proposal, with Moray Council also involved in the talks.
Local politicians and the HIE believe offering sections of the base to the private sector could represent a significant opportunity to create jobs and diversify the region’s fragile economy.
The MoD is said to be “open to the discussion” but is still assessing which assets the Army will need when it eventually replaces the RAF at the base.
HIE manager for Moray Calum MacPherson said: “We definitely have had a lot of inquiries about the facilities at Kinloss.
“There is significant interest in the assets and we are actually now speaking to the MoD.
“A range of sectors are interested in it. There is a huge asset there to help the local economy.
“For us, the opportunity is the use of assets there, which have attracted a lot of business interest, not just from local companies but from outwith Scotland as well.
“We have had interest, but not just in the physical assets but the skills from the workers as well.”
Business leaders believe large buildings on the site could be ideal for oil and gas industry fabrication yards.
The runway at the base could also be attractive to logistics and other transport companies.
“These are options we have talked about,” said Mr MacPherson.
“This is just a discussion. The MoD are open to that discussion, while explaining they need to determine the future use of the site first.”
A spokeswoman for the MoD confirmed last night that the talks were under way but said they were at an early stage.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced in July that the RAF would be replaced at Kinloss by Army units.
Angus Robertson, Moray MP and SNP defence spokesman, criticised the UK Government this week after it was confirmed that it had not provided any extra funding to counter the economic impact of the RAF’s departure. Last night, he gave his backing to plans to offer parts of Kinloss to the private sector.
“I am a keen long-term supporter of economic diversification in Moray, including the potential use of military facilities and know-how,” he said.
“Given the UK Government decision to end air operations from RAF Kinloss, which will lose the area £30million a year, this must be a priority,” added Mr Robertson.
“Local agencies and the Moray Economic Partnership are considering all the opportunities.
“However, we will need the UK Government and MoD to become more responsible and involved in the process.”
Despite joy in the region over the decision to spare RAF Lossiemouth from closure, and the move to mitigate the loss of the RAF from Kinloss by moving in the Army, concerns remain about the economic impact of a gap between one leaving and the other arriving.
On a visit to the airbase in July, Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander called on the MoD to make a quick decision on the future of the facility because of the interest from investors and “important economic opportunities”.
Jim Royan, chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, said: “Until we are clear about what the Army needs, it is difficult to assess how much of the estate will be available for sustainable businesses.
“There are companies which have been speaking to us.
“It’s a work in progress.
“We are working very closely with the Army and the RAF in this.
“We are working on a number of fronts.”