EAGLE — Airports can be likened to holes in the sky through which money falls — still.
The Eagle County Regional Airport pours more than $635 million in to the local economy, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 2013 Division of Aeronautics study. Eagle County’s is one of 14 commercial airports in Colorado, generating $36.7 billion in total economic output.
Those numbers put Colorado’s airports among the state’s top economic generators, along with the agriculture, tourism, energy, high tech and communications sectors.
“Those numbers are significant for Colorado,” said CDOT Aeronautics Division Director David Gordon.
Despite reports of declining passenger numbers at resort airports, it seems they are still a significant source of income. The 2013 study examined all phases of airport spending and economic multipliers, including airport administration and employment, airport tenants, airport capital investment, visitor spending, air cargo, tax revenue and directly-related off-airport employment. The study was conducted by Colorado aviation consulting firms ICF SH&E, Jviation and Kramer Aerotek, Inc.
The Eagle County airport’s economic output fell from $982 million in 2008 to $635 million in the 2013 data. The airport was hit by the same economic factors that hit the rest of the country, but that’s still a huge number and is expected to increase as the economy improves, said Greg Phillips, airport manager.
“We’re looking forward to an increased number of flights this winter,” Phillips said.
How airport’s economic output is calculated
Phillips said the airport’s economic output is calculated by a combination of three income sources:
Direct revenue: Salaries and money that flows through the airport.
Indirect revenue: The economy that’s created by the airport, money generated there that flows to other parts of the community.
Induced income: Following the money to where it’s spent in the community.
Based on those calculations, Denver International Airport has a payroll of more than $8.5 billion annually and generates an annual economic output of more than $26 billion.
Colorado Springs Municipal Airport’s payroll is $1.75 billion and has a total economic output of nearly $3.7 billion annually.
In Colorado’s resort areas, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport has the biggest economic impact, generating employment for 8,310 people, with a total payroll of $283,004,101 and a total economic output of $841,142,866.
Hopkins Field at Nucla employs nine people and has a total economic output approaching $1 million per year; Springfield Municipal Airport in far southeastern Colorado employs eight and its total economic output exceeds $1 million annually.
The Eagle County airport is already Colorado’s third busiest during the ski season. Locally, about half of all destination skiers arrive through the local airport.
Industry experts say that around 20 percent of all Aspen’s skier days come through the Eagle County airport.