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Grand Forks airport's economic impact reaches new heights
March 25, 2011
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  • By Tu-Uyen Tran
    March 21, 2011

    Grand Forks International Airport’s economic impact last year accounted for at least a fifth of the economic impact of all commercial airports in North Dakota, according to a report from the state’s Aeronautics Commission.

    The 1,888 jobs at the airport and spending by passengers resulted in an impact of $207.3 million, the report said. UND Aerospace’s flight training and research activities accounted for a large chunk of that.

    Grand Forks was still a distant second compared to Fargo’s Hector International Airport, which had an impact of $425.1 million, nearly half the total impact of $931 million among commercial airports statewide. The bulk of Fargo’s impact came from the Air National Guard’s 119th Wing.
    Statewide, the impact of all airports totaled $1.1 billion.

    Airport Executive Director Patrick Dame called the total “mindboggling.” Dame and Aeronautics Commission consultant Mason Short presented the data Monday to City Council members, several of whom indicated their strong support.

    Council President Hal Gershman, who represents the council on the Airport Authority, praised the airport’s performance. He and council member Dana Sande, an executive at UND Aerospace Foundation, noted that local property taxes make up a very small portion of the airport’s budget.
    Besides the standard on-airport impact, Short also analyzed the impact of aviation-related industries outside of the airport, such as that of aircraft maker Cirrus Design. He said it totaled $97 million.

    This amount was not added to the total impact of the Grand Forks airport. Short said he was only asked to do an off-airport study for Grand Forks.

    Economic impact measures the value of all economic activities as they circulate through a community before flowing into the rest of the national economy. Some activities tend to circulate more and create more value in the local economy, multiplying their impact.

    Short said he used a standard method approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Last study in 2004
    The last time the Aeronautics Commission conducted an economic impact study was in 2004. At the time, the impact of all commercial airports statewide totaled $861.8 million. Grand Forks accounted for $109.6 million of that, about 13 percent, and Fargo $362.3 million, about 30 percent.

    One big change in Grand Forks, Short said, is the large increase in boardings from a second airline, Allegiant Air, which has attracted a lot of Canadian travelers to the local airport.
    Grand Forks is building a new terminal to accommodate expected growth in traffic with completion expected in August, Dame said. It’s a few months later than earlier projected, mostly because of uncertain Congressional action.

    Other airports
    Here’s a list of economic impact at other airports in the region with more than $1 million in impact. Other than Devils Lake, all serve private aircraft only with no airline service:

    – Devils Lake Regional Airport: $9.7 million.
    – Cavalier Municipal Airport: $3.3 million.
    – Cooperstown Municipal Airport: $811,000.
    – Drayton Municipal Airport: $1.2 million.
    – Grafton’s Hutson Field: $3.7 million.
    – Hillsboro Municipal Airport: $4 million.
    – Langdon’s Robertson Field: $2.6 million.
    – Larimore Municipal Airport: $5.1 million.
    – Mayville Municipal Airport: $1.7 million.
    – New Rockford’s Tomlinson Field: $1.6 million.
    – Northwood Municipal Airport: $1 million.
    – Park River Airport: $2 million.
    – Rolla Municipal Airport: $2.5 million.
    – Walhalla Municipal Airport: $3.7 million.

    Date: 2011-03-21