Ohio’s publicly owned airports account for a $13 billion economic impact, according to a study aimed at helping direct spending of federal aviation money.
The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation will present draft recommendations from its Airports Focus Study at seven public meetings this month. Final recommendations will be released in December.
The study found that 73 jobs, $1.9 million in payroll and $6.7 million in output of goods and services can be attributed to Ross County’s Shoemaker Airport. The airport’s most frequent operations include air cargo, corporate, medical, law enforcement and recreational flights. The military also uses the airport to practice approaches.
The figures are based on 2012 data and take into account purchases by on-site businesses, government agencies and several million visitors. The figures also include the value of those dollars circulating through the community.
Ross County’s airport has already been periodically receiving federal money for continued improvements, with the most recent coming this past week when U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded $347,248 to the airport for crack sealing and marking to repair the airport apron, to update the T-hangar taxiways and to minimize debris.
“This is great news for Ross County,” Brown said. “These improvements will enhance safety at Ross County Airport. These federal dollars will to a long way in sustaining travel in and out of the airport for area residents and businesses.”
Airport manager Jim Parks said the award announcement was expected and is the result of the Ross County commissioners’ commitment to pursuing funding for the airport’s development. During paving work last summer, officials decided to conduct random load testing of the runways and taxiways to confirm their suspicions that the airport had the ability to support heavier aircraft.
“We were right,” Parks said. “We went from a 50,000-pound footprint to a 100,000-pound footprint. We have doubled the weight-bearing capacity of the facility.”
The result of that is that the local airport has been upgraded to a category one facility, meaning it can accept the larger types of aircraft that can help with economic development and attracting businesses to the local area. It also will likely make it easier to continue attracting money for facility upgrades.
“Reading between the lines, category one airports are the ones that are going to get funded in the future,” Parks predicted.
The two-year ODOT study was requested by the FAA to evaluate the economic impact of Ohio’s public airports and their improvement needs. The study, conducted by Massachusetts-based consulting firm CDM Smith, cost $2.3 million and was funded primarily by the FAA, ODOT press secretary Steve Faulkner said.
“Findings and recommendations are based on site visits and data collected from all 104 publicly owned airports in Ohio, interviews with county and state economic officials, a pilot survey, public input received from two earlier rounds of public meetings, and extensive technical analysis,” Faulkner said.
Statewide, the study determined the 104 airports are responsible for $13.3 billion in economic benefits, 2 percent of Ohio’s workforce, $4.2 billion in annual payroll, and $29.6 million in annual tax revenue.
The majority of Ohio’s public airports are considered general aviation and were the primary focus of the study. The 97 general aviation airports are responsible for $1.8 billion in economic benefits each year. Part of that benefit comes from 17,500 jobs and $688 million in payroll.
The economic findings will be used as part of the evaluation process when determining ODOT and Federal Aviation Administration funding awards. Each year, ODOT directs nearly $1 million, and the FAA $20 million, to general aviation airports across the state.
The primary source of the funding is taxes on fuel and airline tickets. The study also provides recommendations for improvements using FAA standards that could change after the public comment period. The study notes the information is to be used for planning purposes and “should not supersede detailed engineering studies, airport master plans or pavement maintenance plans.”
The recommendations for the Ross County Airport have an estimated cost of $7.4 million. The big-ticket recommendations include continued improvements to pavement conditions and upgrading the airport lighting system. Parks said a project to upgrade all standard lighting and controls is scheduled for 2016.
Faulkner said ODOT officials hope local residents will use the information to better understand their needs and make plans and to “communicate their local airport’s economic value to the community and decision-makers.” Gazette Local Desk Editor Chris Balusik contributed to this report. Ohio aviation by the numbers
• $13.3 billion: Annual economic benefit of the 104 publicly owned airports
• 231,000: Jobs provided by public and commercial airports
• $29.6 million: Public airport annual tax revenues that mostly support the state’s general fund
• $11.5 billion: Annual economic benefit of the 7 commercial airports
• 73: Airport/pilot training programs
The draft recommendations will be discussed at seven public meetings:
• 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Warren County Career Center, 3525 Ohio 48 N, Lebanon
• 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Avetec, 4170 Allium Court, Springfield
• 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Pike County Government Center, Rooms 104 and 105, 230 Waverly Plaza, Waverly
• 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 22 at Zane State College, EPIC Building Room 608, 9900 Brick Church Road, Cambridge
• 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Delaware Community Center YMCA, 1121 S. Houk Road, Delaware
• 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Findlay Inn and Conference Center, Hancock Room, 200 E. Main Cross St., Findlay
• 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Brecksville Community Center, 1 Community Drive, Brecksville
Drafts from the Ohio Airports Focus Study are available at a link under Division of Operations at www.dot.state.oh.us. Comments will be collected at the meetings or can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.