America’s airports continue to be a key factor in the sustained growth and success of thousands of businesses and cities, and also the nation. Airports strengthen the economy of this country by growing tourism, increasing the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of business travel, and positively impacting the global economy.
According to a late spring news release by Airports Council International-North America*, “America’s commercial airports are powerful economic engines – generating billions of dollars in annual activity, and supporting millions of stable, well-paying jobs. Using data from more than 272 airport economic impact studies, a 2012 study found that U.S. commercial airports support nearly 10.5 million jobs, create annual payrolls totaling $365 billion, and produce an annual output of $1.2 trillion.” The bulk of the dollars produced annually by airports comes from the nearly 500 large commercial service airports.
The fact remains, however, that America’s airports, including General Aviation (GA) airports, are key components of this country’s valuable and vitally important transportation infrastructure and national economy. Like their larger cousins, small and medium sized GA airports contribute significantly to the economic success of the city and/or county that owns and operates them, and the state in which they are located; every citizen benefits as well.
A 2011 Economic Impact Report completed by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, states: “In total, Minnesota small and medium sized airports created $434 million in output in the state in 2009, including 3,758 jobs and $184 million in labor income. This impact was created from expenditures by eight airport-based activities including: public airport operations and capital investments, fixed based operators (FBOs), commercial scheduled air service, retail businesses, general aviation, freight operators, private corporations with flight departments, and non-profit and 18 government entities. These airport-based activities spent $234 million in 2009, employed 2,337 individuals, and paid them $120 million in labor income.”
A majority of Minnesota’s airports are publicly owned and operated. They bring an easily seen value to their cities by opening a door to tourism and growth. Pilots with passengers fly into local airports, rent cars, eat at local restaurants, purchase services, products, and entertainment locally. This adds many dollars to the local economy that likely would not have come there were it not for the local airport.
Local airports are also magnets for businesses. Many businesses relocate to cities with airports so their personnel, products, and services have very fast direct access to flights in corporate and other GA aircraft. Some businesses will actively seek to build facilities on airport property. That adds to the financial viability of that airport, as well as to that business.
Airports are the landlords for a variety of businesses that lease facilities on airport property, whether or not those businesses directly or indirectly support aviation. Their revenues are derived from space/building rental, parking fees, service fees, food and goods sales, and airline space rental and landing fees. These income streams all help to make the airport financially viable while being largely funded only by those who use those services or fly into and out of public airports.
The airport infrastructure is provided and maintained through active long-term planning, funding, and management. A large portion of maintenance and improvement funding comes from federal and state grants or loans, with the smallest portion coming from the airport and/or its municipality. Thus, it is aviation user fees, and aviation taxes that pay for the airport.
In fact, when travelers purchase airline tickets or ship packages by air; or when pilots buy fuel for their aircraft and pay fuel taxes, the fees and taxes pay for things like airport construction and maintenance projects.
Turning once again to the economic impact study completed by the CTS, it shows that Minnesota’s small to medium GA airports pumped more than $617 million into Minnesota’s economy. Labor income was more than $183.6 million!
A significant part of the $617 million is produced by the more than 100 FBOs in Minnesota. Their impact cannot be denied as the report shows in labor income alone, FBO employees received nearly $39 million.
But it isn’t just the dollars that bring tremendous value to our communities state-wide.
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said in a very recent federal congressional hearing on aviation, “Airports are a key component in our transportation system, and they are a very important element in business aviation operations.” He also stated, “It’s worth noting that these smaller airports don’t just benefit business aviation. Local airports serve a critical role in supporting flights for schools, universities, agricultural services, emergency medical services, postal services, fire and rescue teams, law enforcement and other services. The airports are also local economic engines, bringing people and goods from communities to national and global markets, stimulating local economic growth.”
In a final comment at the close of his testimony Bolen said, “One of our nation’s greatest strengths is the size, diversity, efficiency and safety of our aviation system…”
As you can see, our Minnesota airports are a valuable asset to Minnesota’s cities, counties, and to the state. They provide many benefits not just to aviation, but to every citizen, even those who no longer fly or never have flown, even as a passenger.
So take time this summer to let people in your community know about the valuable asset the airport truly is. Share the news about Minnesota’s airports!