By Susan Orr
EVANSVILLE — As an economic development professional, Greg Wathen knows that airports play a vital role in creating a healthy local economy.
Companies looking at this area frequently inquire about local air service, Wathen said, and with good reason — they want to know they have a way to quickly transport customers, executives and freight when theyneed to.
“The reality is, for us, air is pretty critical,” said Wathen, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana.
“It’s certainly as important as I-69.”
A study released last week backs up Wathen’s view.
The study, which looks at the economic impact of Indiana’s airports, was a joint effort of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation, the Aviation Association of Indiana and Conexus Indiana. It includes data collected by 69 Hoosier airports, both commercial and generalaviation.
In the study, researchers looked at the number of people directly employed at Indiana’s airports. But they also calculated the number of jobs that are directly tied to airport use around the state.
“In your community, this is all the people that if you didn’t have an airport probably wouldn’t have a job,” said David Holt, vice president of operations and business development at Conexus Indiana.
Conexus is an Indianapolis-based organization that promotes transportation, logistics and advanced manufacturing throughout Indiana.
The study also reports jobs created as a result of the multiplier effect of spending by airport employees and users.
According to the report, Indiana’s 69 airports support 69,149 jobs. That number includes 13,032 people directly employed at airports. It also includes another 34,742 jobs tied to airport use, and an additional 21,375 multiplier effect jobs.
Highlights from selected airports:
Indianapolis International Airport: 9,431 airport jobs, 6,536 jobs tied to airport use, and 4,976 multiplier effect jobs.
Evansville Regional Airport (numbers include Tri-State Aero, which is an airport tenant): 149 airport jobs, 3,125 jobs tied to airport use, and 1,301 multiplier effect jobs.
Huntingburg Airport: 34 airport jobs, 1,722 jobs tied to airport use, 993 multiplier effect jobs.
Paoli Municipal airport: 11 airport jobs, 3 jobs tied to airport use, 7 multiplier effect jobs.
Daviess County airport: 9 airport jobs, 54 jobs tied to airport use, 10 multiplier effect jobs.
French Lick municipal airport: 4 airport jobs, 18 jobs tied to airport use, 10 multiplier effect jobs.
Perry County municipal airport: 1 airport job, 53 jobs tied to airport use, 16 multiplier effect jobs.
“I think the surprising thing for me was sort of the niches that are out there for all of the airports,” Holt said.
For instance, Holt said, the Huntingburg airport’s niche is in serving the six Dubois County companies that have their own corporate jets. Indianapolis International’s specialty, he said, is in cold-storage transport.
One of Evansville’s niches is in international business travel, said Dianna Page, Evansville Regional Airport’s marketing director.
But beyond that, Page said the Evansville airport serves many types of customers because Evansville has such a diverse local economy.
The recent study, Page and Wathen said, will be helpful to them as they work to promote the local economy, and the airport as part of that.
“Even if you don’t ever use the airport it’s important to you, because it supports local industry,” Page said.
“I think it’s a message we really need to educate people on.”