Preliminary figures from a report about the economic impact of the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport indicate the facility provides the region with 300 jobs, adds $17.4 million in gross regional product and $2.7 million in state and local tax revenues to Washington and Idaho.
The Moscow City Council heard a briefing Tuesday ahead of the full written report that should be ready for the Pullman City Council early next month. The report shows how the airport is crucial to the region if it wants to continue adding more jobs, particularly high-technology industry specialties — an area that has grown substantially during the past 20 years.
Runway realignment and improvements to modernize the airport are projected to cost between $89 million and $119 million. Without the improvements to the airport, the report said, long-term losses include one or more of the area’s high-technology employers — which would result in the loss of more than $200 million in gross regional product as well as the area’s competitive edge in attracting new firms. It would also hinder growth of higher education providers and result in reduced tourism and spending, the report said.
Airports are “kind of hidden economic drivers,” the report’s author, Steven Peterson, said.
Of the 300 jobs the report said are added by the airport, 212 are held by people who work at the airport in various capacities. The remainder wouldn’t exist without the airport, said Peterson, a clinical assistant professor in the college of Business and Economics at the University of Idaho. The airport improvement work itself will provide 93 jobs during the next five years, according to the report.
Peterson said the airport is important for job recruitment, too.
“It’s a quality of life issue” because a job candidate will start doing online research about the community he or she is considering and not having an airport available could be a problem, Peterson said.
The report also said airports serve the same important purpose trains once did and are considered a necessity for modern economic development, especially in rural areas.
“It’s a major transportation resource for the university,” Washington State University Spokesman Robert Strenge said about the airport.
The airport started operating in the 1930s and, before that, people only had train service, he said.
The regional economy is highly dependent on the University of Idaho, WSU and Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. These institutions employ nearly 14,000 people and attract more than $440 million in research annually, according to the report.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is the region’s largest private employer and it has four of its five corporate jets at the local airport. It also contributed $2 million to the local fund needed for the project to receive money from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The report said use of the airport has been on the rise, with 20 percent more enplanements between 2014 and 2015.
Terri Harber can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.