Your recent column, (City Hall: Aviation Less Valuable to the Regional Economy Than Imagined, 10/6), unfortunately was way off the mark on a number of important facts.
First and foremost, the author is wrong in asserting that one can or should only look at the tax revenue and employment when analyzing the economic impact of an airport, industry or business. According to a 2008 report by the Airport Cooperative Research Program, the commonly-used “input-output method” of calculating economic impact looks at the direct, indirect, and induced effects of economic activity. This is because it’s important to know not only how many jobs are at the airport, but how many related industries and services rely on those activities and ultimately support that community. Whether it is the caterers that serve business meetings at the airport, the jobs sustained by the companies that depend on the airport as a part of their business model, or the suppliers whose parts help companies that repair and service airplanes, second and third degree economic activity cannot be discounted.
Not only that, while there are always limitations associated with any study of any kind, according to HR&A’s own 2011 power point presentation to the city on the impact of the airport, the “the Airport Campus has played an important role in the City’s economy since the early 1900s.” According to that presentation, the 894 direct jobs at the Airport Campus alone are equivalent to about 1,200 hotel rooms (about four times the Fairmont Miramar), or 365,000 square feet of shopping center space in terms of economic impact for the city. The airport campus supports the organ transplant program at UCLA Medical Center, the daily operations of the largest citrus grower in California, the region’s entertainment industry, emergency preparedness, and many other crucial functions. In fact, there are over 42 entire industries alone that depend on activity at Santa Monica airport. To equate this type of impact to that of a strip mall is insulting and myopic – to say the least.
In spite of the author’s own clear political motivations, the positive impact of this airport in terms of jobs, industries across the board, and even critical services, are simply too great to be ignored.