By Chris Romer
Ever wonder what the value of the Eagle County Regional Airport and general aviation is to the community?
It’s a good time to ask that question as the Eagle County Regional Airport master plan process kicked off on March 1, 2011, and will result in a 20-year plan outlining the needs of current and future users of the airport. This 24-month process is important for ensuring that safe and orderly development can occur at EGE that is consistent with the goals of the community. It will determine what facilities are needed, when they will be needed and how much they will cost.
While the master plan is an important strategic document to help create the Airport Layout Plan set for FAA approval and establish future facility needs, it is not a business or marketing plan. And importantly, the Master Plan is not an indication of future carrier service.
But keep in mind that EGE (commercial service), the Vail Valley Jet Center (general aviation), and the rest of the general aviation community are vital economic drivers for Eagle County. In fact, every five years the Colorado Division of Aeronautics conducts a statewide economic impact study including all commercial and general aviation airports in Colorado. They break it down to overall economic impact by airport, and even further, into other sub-impact groups.
The last time this study was done was in 2008. You may be surprised to learn that the study demonstrates that the Eagle County Regional Airport has a $982 million impact, with visitor spending estimated at $2,070 per visitor.
Airport related employment connected to EGE is 10,467 – making the airport and related services a huge component of our economy and our community. This includes the economic impacts of on-airport businesses and tenants (terminal concessionaires, the military, the Vail Valley Jet Center, etc).
As we continue to strive to grow our economy and focus on new and emerging business segments that do not rely 100 percent on tourism, the Eagle County Regional Airport is an integral part of our story. Research shows that when businesses consider relocation or expansion, proximity to a commercial airport is among the top three factors they consider (and proximity to a general aviation airport is in the top five).
Of course, tourism and the positive impacts of tourism remain our bread and butter here in the Vail Valley. The sales tax revenue paid by guests coming through the Eagle County Airport benefit the entire county – from Gypsum collecting sales tax on every car rental to the resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek collecting lodging taxes.
As we look ahead, Eagle County is working on the master planning process to help outline the future capital needs and infrastructure at the airport. Vail Resorts, the Eagle Air Alliance, and Airport management continue to focus on developing new and more commercial service. The Vail Valley Jet Center continues to provide the highest level of service to our general aviation guests. Eagle County and others are researching the development of an international terminal. And we all benefit from their efforts, as the airport is big business and is a big part of our economy and future economic development.
If you are interested in more, the complete study is available here: http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/aeronautics/PDF_Files/2008EconImpact.pdf
What can your business do to help? If you benefit from these efforts, get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. If you are already a member, tell your neighbors to join to help us do more here in the valley. Additionally, consider joining the Eagle Air Alliance, where your dollars contribute directly to efforts to support additional air service into the community. For more information, contact Greg Phillips, EGE Aviation Director, at 970-328-2680 or Kent Myers, EGE Air Alliance, at 970-390-7207.
As always, I encourage all member businesses to get engaged with the Partnership and to contact us with any suggestions you may have to help us better serve you and for non-members to join the Partnership. Call us at 970-476-1000 or stop by our offices in Avon at Traer Creek Plaza to share your feedback.
Source: VAIL DAILY