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Op-Ed: Airport Economics
August 15, 2011
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  • The St. George replacement airport on the southeast edge of town is off to a good start, but increases in the number of passengers don’t appear to be good enough for some critics.

    Through the first six months of operation, the number of paying passengers has increased by 15 percent. On the general aviation side, 83 private hanger contracts have been signed compared to 63 at the old airport.

    Both of those statistics are positive results for a new facility. It’s clear the momentum is going the right direction.

    But that hasn’t silenced some critics who ask some fair questions:

    When will another carrier enter the market?

    What other destinations can be added from St. George?

    When will development around the airport – the construction and resulting facilities that are expected to bring more jobs to the area – begin?

    The answer to all of those questions is not comforting for anyone who wants to see economic activity and expansion of operations at the airport happen immediately. That answer is: When the market dictates.

    The harsh truth is the airport wasn’t expected to immediately jump start the local economy. New businesses have to be recruited. Even more passengers have to fly in and out of St. George.

    In short, demand has to exist before the supply is provided.

    We’ve seen a good example of this with SkyWest Airlines’ decision to bring back service to Los Angeles. The flights were discontinued because of lack of passengers at the old airport. But that service has been restored because of more demand from people in this area seeking to travel to Southern California.

    That kind of supply-demand cause and effect will dictate these other highly anticipated moves as well. SkyWest or another carrier will emerge to provide service to more locations once the demand is more consistent. Businesses will move into the area around the airport once they determine moving to that part of town is in their best interest.

    The city can’t dictate that kind of economic activity. It can’t control prices. It certainly can’t dictate that people fly in and out of the local airport.

    What the city can do is create a business-friendly environment by using the resources at its disposal. It did that by ushering in a new era of air travel in St. George. The rest is up to consumers and businesses looking to capitalize by providing what the people who live and work here really want.

    Source: St. George Daily Spectrum
    Date: 2011-08-15