The Central Nebraska Regional Airport in Grand Island “is irreplaceable,” according to a recent study.
The airport has a $158 million overall impact on Grand Island and the surrounding area, according to a recently completed Airport Regional Value study, which measures the airport’s economic impact.
“The airport should be viewed not just as a public transportation facility but as an attractor of commerce,” the study’s executive summary states. “The Central Nebraska Regional Airport serves the region as a significant economic activity.”
The study was completed by Quadrex Aviation of Omaha on behalf of the Hall County Airport Authority. It measured the direct economic impact related to airport employment, payroll and other spending; the indirect impact of job growth in other industries related to the airport, also known as business-to-business spending; and the induced impact of increased household spending, also known as the consumer-to-business spending effect.
Of the $158 million impact, $145.5 million is aviation-related with the remainder attributed to the airport’s industrial park, the study states.
“It’s about $120 million higher” than the previously measured economic impact, airport Executive Director Mike Olson said.
In 2004, the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics completed a study that found the Central Nebraska Regional Airport had about a $21 million impact overall. But a lot has happened since then.
The Nebraska Army National Guard facility was constructed, new airplane hangars were built and new airline service was recruited, causing boardings to grow from 6,500 a year in 2003 to a record-setting 56,900 in 2013.
The airport is pumping more fuel, has more airport activity and has additional tenants in its industrial park, Olson said.
“I was expecting $80 million to $100 million, but when I saw $140 (million for aviation impact alone), I looked and I guess it’s not a big surprise,” Olson said.
“It’s a very substantial number, and it goes to show the economic vitality of what an airport does to its local region and local municipality.
“We’re one of the top 10 businesses in Hall County as far as economic output,” Olson said.
The airport directly employs 186 aviation-related employees with a payroll of $6.8 million. Factoring in the industrial park brings the employment total to 218 with an annual payroll of $7.7 million.
But those employment and payroll numbers at the airport mean more jobs and spending in Grand Island and the region, too, the study found. In fact, there’s another 285 jobs with a payroll of nearly $10 million that are dependent on the airport.
“The growth of the airport correlates with the growth of Grand Island,” Olson said. “Usually when you see an airport growing substantially, it means the community that airport serves or that region is growing as well.”
Olson said the study provides good information to the public about the importance of the airport to the city and the region. It’s also a good marketing tool, he said.
“We plan on using this as we continue to recruit new businesses and additional air service,” Olson said. “It’s also good for benchmarking.”
The study found, too, that visitors using the airport are another important part of the economic impact.
“Commercial service, general aviation and other visitors provide an estimated $3.8 million to the region in purchases of off-airport goods and services,” the study summary states.
As good as the economic news is, the study found that more good news should be on the way with planned expansions at the airport.
Over the next couple of years, the airport is expected to put in $27 million of new capital improvements, Olson said. Those include a new fixed-based operator terminal in 2014, a new passenger terminal in 2015, new hangars in 2014 and in subsequent years and a 1,000-foot extension of the main runway up to 8,000 feet in 2017.
“This construction is anticipated to support almost 300 jobs with a payroll of $13.4 million and a total production output of $38.5 million,” the study states.
It’s growth and service that have been noticed in the community, as well as around the state.
The Central Nebraska Regional Airport on Jan. 23 was named as Airport of the Year for the fifth time in eight years by the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics.
“We’re poised to continue to grow, and I think Grand Island is poised to continue to grow as well,” Olson said.