Jamestown Regional Airport’s impact on the Jamestown region’s economy is $20.4 million, according to a study commissioned by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.
This is a 56 percent increase from 2010, when the airport had a $13.1 million impact on the local economy, according to information provided by the Aeronautics Commission.
However, Jim Boyd, chairman of the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority, and Sam Seafeldt, airport manager, believe the number should be higher.
“I don’t think they’ve given us fair research on this,” Boyd said about the study.
Kyle Wanner, director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, said the commission hired Jviation, a Denver, Colo.-based engineering firm, to conduct the economic impact study. Jviation looked at each of the eight commercial airports’ five economic activity centers: airport management, airport tenants, capital improvement spending, commercial visitor spending and general aviation visitor spending. The study broke down each activity center by employment, total payroll generated by that employment and total output. Output represents the purchase of goods and services within North Dakota. Jviation also looked at the the state’s smaller general aviation airports and measured those airports’ economic impact based on employment, total payroll and total output.
The total output for all of the state’s airports is $3.6 billion. Wanner said this figure includes the five economic activity centers at each airport as well as some other non-airport-specific aviation and aerospace activities in the state that make direct contributions to the state’s economy. These “non-airport-specific” activities include U.S. Air Force bases in Minot and Grand Forks, aviation-supported jobs and off-airport aviation and aerospace business, including UTC Aerospace Systems in Jamestown. These four activities account for 19,996 jobs that generate a payroll of $930.7 million and have a total economic output of $2.1 billion in North Dakota.
Wanner said the study also showed the total number of jobs directly or indirectly supported by the airport statewide went from 8,872 in 2010 to 12,217 in 2015.
Boyd said an example of his concern about the figures in the economic impact study is that the study shows Jamestown Regional Airport had 3,542 visitors arrive by commercial air service in 2015. Boyd said the total number of passenger boardings at the airport for 2015 was 8,602.
The Aeronautics Commission report on the economic impact study notes that the 3,542 visitors figure was part of one table in an executive summary of the economic impact study, and the table didn’t include state residents who flew on commercial airline flights into Jamestown.
Wanner said the Aeronautics Commission only wanted numbers on commercial visitors to each airport to measure how much money each commercial visitor brings into an area served by one of the state’s airports.
“When you calculate dollars coming into the community, you look at visitors, not residents,” he said.
Wanner said visitors were asked about how much money they would be spending and where they were staying. Based on those answers, the study showed visitors who arrived in Jamestown on commercial flights spent $1.4 million in 2015, an average of $400 per person. In the 2010 economic impact study, visitors to Jamestown spent about $290 per person.
Wanner said statewide, visitors who came to Jamestown on commercial flights spent on average $677 per person in 2015, more than double the $325 visitors spent per person in 2010.
“Jamestown should be very happy, their numbers went up a lot,” he said about the spending per visitor figure.
Boyd said he believes the Aeronautics Commission should have included the economic impact numbers that UTC Aerospace Systems has on the local economy in Jamestown Regional Airport’s numbers.
“UTC Aerospace has over 500 employees,” he said. “I don’t know what the company’s sales are, but not including those numbers in the Jamestown Regional Airport’s numbers is really understating the airport’s impact on the regional and state economy.”
Wanner said UTC’s numbers were included in the off-airport impact for the whole state, not just for Jamestown. He said because UTC’s operations don’t directly involve Jamestown Regional Airport, the company’s numbers weren’t included in the airport’s economic impact number. UTC does lease airport property on which its production facility is built.
Wanner said he understands Boyd’s frustration in wanting to show the importance of Jamestown Regional Airport to the community, but he thinks the Aeronautics Commission’s economic impact study shows the importance of the airport to the community.
“We do this study every five years and Jamestown (airport) has grown since the last study,” he said.
Seafeldt said when employees from the Aeronautics Commission were at Jamestown Regional Airport in spring 2015, those employees looked at all aspects of the airport’s operations. He said while he agrees with Boyd’s assessment of the numbers in the study, he also thinks the study is a good way to get the word out about how important Jamestown Regional Airport is to the regional and state economy.
“The goal is to show people that the airport is a main line for people to come here to spend and make money in Jamestown,” Seafeldt said.
Boyd said overall he hopes the Aeronautic Commission will allow changes to be made to the numbers in the economic impact study to reflect a more accurate picture of Jamestown Regional Airport’s impact on the regional and state economy.
Wanner said the commission will not be amending the study as it was meant to be a “snapshot” in time.
“I feel this (the study) was the best snapshot,” he said.