SULLIVAN – A recent Missouri Department of Transportation study estimates that the state’s commercial and public-use airports create an annual economic impact of $11.1 billion. That includes 100,000 jobs with a payroll of more than $3 billion. Sullivan Regional Airport was included in the study.
According to MoDOT, Sullivan Regional Airport creates 37 jobs, with a total payroll of $1,075,000, and a total output of $3,876,000. Payroll represents the total annual wages, salaries, and benefits paid to all workers. Output measures the value of goods, services and capital expenditures. It isn’t clear how the study calculated the figures for the local airport, but the City of Sullivan does not provide any full-time staff to the airport.
However, ARCH Air Medical Service is based at the airport, with a staff of about 16 full-time personnel. An aircraft maintenance business is also located at the airport and a flight instruction pilot operates from Sullivan Regional. Several City of Sullivan employees help maintain and manage the airport, but it’s not know if – or how – their costs are included in the study.
“I can tell you that the airport generally breaks even every year,” said Sullivan City Administrator J.T. Hardy while discussing the study. “It would be difficult to determine exactly how much the City spends on the airport because some of the work is seasonal (mowing, etc.); we don’t break down those hours.” The City actually generates income from the sale of fuel at the airport and hangar rental. Subsidies from the government also offset expenses, with the city matching government funds in a 90-10 split (feds/state pays 90%, city 10%).
According to MoDOT, the economic impact study looked at the significance of local spending by airport users and/or visitors. Using Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, the study examined direct and indirect impacts, as well as induced impacts. Direct impacts include employment, wages, and sales generated by on-airport business activity. At Sullivan Regional, fuel sales and hangar rentals would be considered direct impacts.
Indirect impacts arise from visitors arriving by aircraft and their spending on food, hotels, entertainment, transportation and other activities. These expenditures support additional jobs, wages, and output.
Induced impacts, the study notes, are created through the “spin-off” effect of users purchasing goods and services form other local businesses and through workers spending wages for household goods and services. Airport users – such as non-area people attending an airport fly-in or event held on airport grounds – spending money on gasoline, restaurants, shopping, etc., all contribute to the economy because of the airport. It’s well known at the airport that some pilots stop and use the city-provided car to eat at Du Kum Inn or other establishments. A recent one-day skydiving event brought in more than 100 out-of-town participants, many of them spending money on food, lodging and fuel in the City of Sullivan.
According to the study, the most common activities at the airport consist of corporate flying, flight training, emergency medical evacuation, and recreational flying. The Civil Air Patrol frequently uses the airport for search and rescue training and missions, reconnaissance missions for Homeland Security, disaster relief, and support for law enforcement operations.
Seasonal activities include aerial spraying, military exercises, forest firefighting, and aerial photography. Aerial pipeline inspectors often rely on the airport for fuel and aircraft services. Military helicopters routinely stop at the airport for fuel, maintenance issues, and/or training. The airport also serves as a staging area for community events, such as fly-ins, supporting the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles youth aviation program and accommodating auto shows, vendors, and military and law enforcement displays.
MoDOT recognizes the amenities included at Sullivan Regional, including fuel services, aircraft services, hangar and tie-down rentals, and flight crew and passenger facilities. Sullivan Airport and A&P Services provide aircraft maintenance and repair services, while Freedom Air Aviation offers adventure flights and instruction. For critically ill or injured patients, ARCH flies from its airport base, hospitals, or on-scene rescue.
Statewide, the study found that the economic contribution of Missouri airports grew 17.1 percent in the past decade despite the economic recession. The growth was fueled largely by an increase in business activity. In 2012, an estimated 6.2 million travelers arrived in Missouri via commercial airports and more than 260,000 arrived on general aviation aircraft.