By Sean Belk
August 14, 2012 – Despite a recession, downsizing businesses and declining general aviation activity, the overall direct economic impact of Long Beach Airport’s area complex has grown over the last decade, according to a recently released study by local economists.
Released last month by California State University, Long Beach’s Office of Economic Research, the study showed that the airport complex, as of 2011, supported 18,000 local jobs and generated $6.2 billion in economic impact in Long Beach. When compared to data from 2003, the last time an economic impact report was done on the airport, figures show that jobs have grown by 2,000 and economic impact has increased by $2.2 billion over the last decade.
The study reported that about 5 percent of all Long Beach businesses and 9 percent of all local jobs were generated from the airport complex.
“We expected the numbers to be good, but we never expected the numbers to be this good,” said Mario Rodriguez, director of the Long Beach Airport. “The economic impact has grown . . . As the airport continues to thrive, the jobs have at least stabilized . . . It looks like a very bright light in what is otherwise a very bad economy.”
On a regional scale, this latest study estimated the airport complex supported 43,000 jobs and generated more than $11 billion in economic impact. Additionally, the average annual wage for airport-related jobs was $78,000, which is 50 percent higher than the average wage in Los Angeles County.
As one of the most diverse airports in the region, LGB encompasses 1,166 acres and has 417 establishments in the area, with 87 that are directly dependent on airport activities. The airport is home to commercial, corporate and general aviation services, along with flight schools and air cargo. Also located at the airport are: Boeing, which operates the C-17 manufacturing plant; Gulfstream, which installs interiors and exteriors of large-cabin business jets; and two Class A business parks.
The study showed that 59,000 overnight visitors at local hotels and flight crews used LGB in 2011, spending $53.4 million within Long Beach city limits.
While general aviation activity has dropped over the years, the number of commercial airline passengers flowing through LGB has steadily increased, climbing from just more than 1 million passengers per year in 2002 to now more than 3 million passengers in 2011. In total, there were 60 commercial and aviation activity-related establishments at the airport in 2011 that generated 2,915 jobs and $600 million in economic impact.
“The number of commercial aviation passengers served [at LGB] has pretty well maintained its level despite the very deep recession we found ourselves in 2008 . . . so this airport has been pretty good about maintaining its share of domestic passengers in the region,” said Joseph Magaddino, who helped put together the study along with economics professor Lisa Grobar. “The same is not true for other regional airports . . . Bob Hope, Ontario and even John Wayne . . . all suffered. LAX has actually picked up . . . but Long Beach has done remarkably well.”
Being centrally located in the Southern California market and with easy access to major freeways, the airport’s property is also a revenue generator for educational institutions, healthcare related operations and other businesses not directly related to airport operations, Magaddino said. He added that development at the former vacant Boeing property, now called Douglas Park, has brought more jobs to the area, which wasn’t the case a few years ago.
Rodriguez said that economic growth generated from the airport should continue to increase, particularly after the airport finishes its $124 million modernization, which includes a new passenger concourse expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year. In addition to the modernization, the airport has an annual construction outlay of $10 million to maintain its runways and infrastructure. “Our airport is so diverse and is such an asset to the City of Long Beach and the community . . . [especially] with everything we’re doing to build the value of this airport,” he said.