by Julie Carr
MNDOT Office of Aeronautics
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2020 issue
In 2019, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics conducted a study of the annual economic impacts generated by 126 of Minnesota’s 133 public airports. In addition to the 126 study airports, there are seven public airports owned by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). The MAC recently completed two economic impact studies and both studies were integrated into the 2019 Minnesota Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study to provide statewide totals.
There are five economic impact categories where data was collected. The five categories are airport management, business tenants, average annual capital investment, and spending by visitors who arrive on general aviation airplanes and commercial flights. For each of these categories, annual economic impacts are reported for employment, payroll, spending, and economic activity. The economic activity category is the sum of payroll and spending, and represents the flow of “dollars” from the airports into the state and local economies.
To start, on-site visits were conducted with many airports and business tenants to collect data. Additional data was then collected through online surveys. The information provided by airports and business tenants was essential to developing the estimated economic impacts and their participation was essential to the study data.
Capital investment data was provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, airports, business tenants, and MnDOT. Five years of capital investment spending was collected and then averaged to get the annual capital investment.
In addition, airports and fixed base operators throughout the state helped distribute surveys to visitors who traveled to Minnesota on general aviation airplanes. The eight commercial airports included in the study all distributed surveys to departing commercial visitors. The results from visitor surveys help determine how long an air visitor stays, and how much they spend for lodging, food, ground transportation, entertainment/recreation, and other retail purchases.
Once direct economic impacts were estimated, IMPLAN, an input/output econometric model, was used to show how direct impacts multiply, creating additional indirect and induced impacts to the economy.
Beyond estimating the economic impact of each airport, many interesting stories were collected around the state. The research identified hundreds of businesses in the state that rely on their local airport. Case studies describe how airports support Minnesota’s important agricultural industry, how healthcare and emergency providers benefit from the airports, and how forest firefighting in the state relies on the support of public airports. There is a back-story for each of the 126 study airports in terms of how the airport specifically benefits the communities it serves.
The MnDOT study provides a baseline economic impact for each of the 126 study airports. The economic impact reflects conditions at the time data gathering was completed in 2019. As the aviation industry is dynamic and constantly changing, MnDOT also produced a tool that study airports can use to estimate changes to their baseline economic impacts. For instance, if the airport loses or gains a new business tenant, the economic impact calculator can be used to calculate that potential impact.
Training will be available on the methodology of the study, to assist local stakeholders in sharing the economic benefits of their airport. Each session will also include training on how to use the economic impact calculator. To register for the training, visit http://airtap.umn.edu/events/workshops/economic/index.html.
The entire Minnesota Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study, including individual airport economic impact reports and all other supporting materials, will be released late-February/early-March 2020.