Airports Have $16 Billion Impact in Massachusetts
May 10, 2015
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  • Dotting nearly every region of the state, public-use airports generate more than $16.5 billion in annual economic activity in Massachusetts, according to a recent state study.

    And Taunton Municipal Airport, aka King Field, in East Taunton is part of the equation.

    “The Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study demonstrates the value that airports add to the Commonwealth by bringing in money, creating jobs, and providing additional travel options throughout Massachusetts,” MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said in a statement. “This study is a key component in illustrating how investments in our airports from every region of our state positively impact our economic development.”

    Statewide, 39 public-use airports support 162,256 jobs and a combined payroll of more than $6 billion. The total includes nine commercial airports and 30 general aviation airports. General aviation includes all civilian flying that isn’t conducted by scheduled passenger airlines.

    Logan International Airport in Boston, which employs nearly 132,000 and generates more than $13.3 billion in economic output, accounts for the majority of the overall economic impact of airports in Massachusetts, but it’s not alone. Even non-commercial general aviation airports can generate millions in economic activity.

    Beverly Municipal Airport and Plymouth Municipal Airport, for example, generate $32.5 million and $47.8 million in economic output, respectively.

    Melinda Paine-Dupont, president of the six-month-old Taunton Pilot’s Association, said the report not only illustrates economic benefits of airports operating in the commonwealth, but it also suggests the potential of Taunton’s 256-acre municipal airport.

    “That’s exactly our message,” Paine-Dupont said, adding that “I’m thrilled with this type of report.”

    The state’s economic-impact study lists Taunton Municipal Airport as generating $3.3 million annually in overall economic activity, or “total output.”

    It also reports 31 jobs affiliated with the airport and a total payroll of $978,000.

    Paine-Dupont’s husband Mike is the sole proprietor and employee of American Aero Services, a repair/restoration business that also does inspections. She said another, smaller maintenance business is also in business at the Taunton airport.

    Paine-Dupont is optimistic about a new airport master plan in the works that eventually will be presented by James Miklas of Woburn-based Airport Solutions Group LLC, which was hired by the city’s airport commission to upgrade and replace its 12-plus-year-old model.

    The Federal Aviation Administration requires that master plans be current and comprehensive with a 20-year projection, in order for general-aviation airports to qualify for capital-improvement grants.

    Roughly 10 percent of capital-grant funding is provided by the state’s MassDOT Aeronautics Division.

    Paine-Dupont said the proposed master plan might include “a pretty spectacular” new terminal with the potential for leasing space to a food vendor.

    The Taunton Pilot’s Association, which she said is seeking 501(c)(3) status, so far has 90 members — many of whom she said fly airport to airport weekend mornings as part of a tradition of sharing an extended breakfast.

    Paine-Dupont said she would love to see someone open a breakfast business here. She also notes the airport now lacks a flying school, which she said plays a vital role in terms of revitalization and economic growth.

    With more improvements, she said, the airport will attract more pilots, which in turn helps generate economic, collateral benefits to nearby businesses.

    Paine-Dupont, 52, said she and her husband own a Piper Cub and Cessna 140, both of which they keep at the Taunton airport.

    And although she said activity has fallen off through the years, there are more airplanes at the airport than some visitors assume, mainly because most of the approximately 120 aircraft there are not tied down outside but instead are kept in hangars.

    The four military air bases in Massachusetts employ 18,187 and account for more than $1.7 billion in economic output.

    The nine commercial service airports, including Logan, have a combined economic impact of more than $16 billion. The 30 general aviation airports in Massachusetts combine to create $516 million in economic impacts.

    An increase in recent years in the number of commercial airlines offering direct flights into Boston has been very positive for the travel-based economy, said Richard Doucette, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
    “Massport and Logan have been getting all these new direct flights from all over the world,” Doucette said. “Anytime people can fly a direct flight, it eliminates a pain in the neck.”

    Smaller airports also benefit as a result, Doucette said, as some travelers may opt to fly out of Logan to reach other destinations in Massachusetts.

    “A lot of people fly to the Cape and Islands,” he said. “There are a ton of small regional airports that cater to people who fly themselves privately.”

    Nantucket Memorial Airport employs 3,208 and has an annual economic output of $378.5 million. Martha’s Vineyard Airport has 1,232 employees and pumps $120 million into the economy.

    “It is made clear in the Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study that the 39 public-use airports bring tremendous value to the economic profile of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” MassDOT Aeronautics Administrator Christopher Willenborg said in a statement. “It is important to highlight that aviation is a strong economic catalyst in the state, sustaining over 162,000 direct and indirect jobs.”