Airports are seeing some revival after the recession, but even in down times, they remain powerful economic engines.
That was the message for the Stewart Airport Commission on Tuesday from Gerardo Mendoza, acting director of the Aviation Bureau of the state Department of Transportation.
Stewart has an annual total economic impact of about $750 million, Mendoza told the panel, citing from an extensive study published by the department in 2011 and based on data from 2010.
That year was, technically, in the recovery phase after the Great Recession, but in the aviation industry, it was still an impacted year.
The industry is growing. “It’s now seeing a comeback,” Mendoza said.
The airport is home to many employers, including the New York Air National Guard and companies in the Stewart Industrial Park, but Mendoza said it also generates great activity in the immediate area.
The study counted 3,636 direct jobs and the addition of 1,943 indirect jobs brought the total to 5,579.
Mendoza cited a trend seen at airports in an age of changing industry with nanotechnology, high-tech industry, medical businesses and others emerging as traditional heavy industry recedes.
“Airports can move to attract some of these businesses,” he said.
Stewart succeeded in landing Allegiant Air last year. The low-fare airline began Oct. 31 with twice-weekly flights to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in the Tampa Bay area.
Allegiant has been doing “very well,” said Airport Manager Richard Heslin of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs Stewart. He said the percentage of seats filled is in the mid- to high-80s, “which is very good.”
“We’re hoping they will expand it,” he added. The Port Authority is putting together a new media campaign to advertise Stewart, Heslin said.
Passenger traffic rose in November by 4 percent and in December by 3.3 percent versus those months in 2012, said Michael Torelli, business development director for the airport. The total for the year was off by 12.2 percent as other airlines cut back service.
Heslin said the Port Authority decided to focus on the Stewart Airport Commission instead of the Citizens Advisory Panel.
“The meetings seemed to be redundant,” he said.
James Wright was re-elected commission chairman and Louis Heimbach, vice chairman.