How Do You Know a Local Economy Is Growing? Check the Sky.
March 8, 2018
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  • The Dane County Regional Airport had the most usage in its history in 2017.

    The more than 1.9 million passengers traversing the terminals marked the fourth consecutive year of growth.

    As of December 2017, Dane County’s unemployment rate was 1.9 percent, tied for the lowest in the state.

    To those who focus on south-central Wisconsin’s economy, the airport is both a cause and effect of the region’s economic boom.

    “It kind of becomes a mutually reinforcing situation where as the airport expands its service opportunities, we likely have an opportunity to grow businesses within Madison and in turn as those businesses grow, they will drive more usage of the airport,” said Matt Mikolajewski, Madison’s economic development director.

    “On many, many levels, we benefit from a very well-run airport,” he added.

    The way Madison and the surrounding area benefits is clear: A robust and well-maintained airport is an attraction to prospective companies, and local officials have invested accordingly.

    In the city’s official proposal for Amazon’s HQ2, Airport Director Bradley Livingston wrote that more than $300 million has been invested in the airport since 2003, and air travel revenue has grown from $123 million in 2010 to $210 million in 2016.

    When organizations like the Madison Regional Economic Partnership are making a sales pitch to potential companies, vouching for the region’s infrastructure is a focus point.

    “Having the university and quality technical colleges are absolutely big advantages for us and we will continue to highlight those things along with quality of life but at the same time, we do need to keep focusing on quality infrastructure and a quality airport in particular,” said Paul Jadin, MadREP’s president.

    Recent flight additions have made the airport, and the region as a whole, more competitive.

    “Having 15 of the top 25 destinations in the country now out of Madison is a big plus for us in terms of our ability to attract regional headquarters and our ability to expand all the phenomenal businesses that we have,” Jadin said.

    When discussing the value of the airport, Jadin said that for the average flyer, its utility may go overlooked. For those who fly multiple times a month, however, destinations matter.

    “Business people now have the ability to fly to D.C., to New York, to Denver and now San Francisco,” he said. “And those are the kinds of things where if you’re flying three or four times a month, you’re going to recognize the airport as an asset.”