Study: Regional Airports Generated $14.4 Billion in Economic Impact in 2017
January 8, 2019
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  • Airports in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina generated $7.7 billion in 2017 revenue for their local communities, according to an N.C. Aviation Division report released Monday.

    The division’s report on The State of Aviation considers three primary spending categories: direct, indirect (primarily suppliers) and induced (defined as revenue, wages, jobs generated by industry-to-industry transactions, and employee and supplier spending on local goods and services, such as shopping at Hanes Mall).

    The induced economic totals in these kinds of studies have drawn some criticism for inflating the overall impact. Similar studies involving not-for-profit healthcare systems also have included induced spending.

    The study by N.C. State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education split the state’s airports into 10 commercial service and 62 general aviation. Statewide, the report found an overall economic impact of $52.38 billion and 306,985 jobs.

    For example, the report listed $1.7 billion in the personal income category for the 14-county region, of which $1.24 billion was credited to Piedmont Triad International Airport (third highest in the state) and $226.2 million to Smith Reynolds Airport (fifth highest and tops among general aviation airports).

    “The increase in economic output from the $31 billion (statewide) reported in 2016 was primarily due to two factors,” according to the study. “Economic growth and new methodology that captures both the impact of jobs located on the 10 commercial-service airports and the impact of business travelers to those airports.”

    For commercial-service airports, the analysis quantified the impact of leisure visitors, on-airport contributions (jobs, income and spending by tenants, such as airlines, rental-car companies and airport security) and the impact of airport capital projects and operations (construction, facility maintenance and operational services).

    Included in that category for PTI would be the FedEx cargo-sorting hub, the HAECO maintenance facilities and the HondaJet manufacturing operations, and other companies with operations on its campus.

    For the general aviation sector, the analysis quantified the impact of jobs supported by the airport directly, jobs supported by businesses that rely on the airport, and the impact of visitors. That category for Smith Reynolds would include United Technologies Corp. and NS Aviation operations on or adjacent to its campus.

    Jobs connected to regional airports totaled 33,980, of which 25,500 were linked to PTI, 3,585 to Smith Reynolds and 2,510 to the Mount Airy airport.

    The report also measured state and local tax revenue, of which there was $255.1 million, including $190.3 million at PTI, $28.4 million at Smith Reynolds and $23.9 million at Mount Airy.

    “Our network of 72 public airports, and the aviation and aerospace assets that rely on them, help move our economy forward by creating jobs, supporting business growth, and connecting people and companies to markets around the globe,” said Bobby Walston, the aviation department’s director.

    North Carolina’s public airports lease space to more than 3,300 private aircraft that generate more than $19 million in tax revenues for their communities each year.

    The study also factored that North Carolina has the nation’s second fastest-growing aerospace manufacturing sector, military aviation enterprises, 14 commercial airline operators and 26 air freight companies.

    “The report is a crucial reminder of just how important the North Carolina aviation system is to the state’s economy,” said Keith Debbage, a joint professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNC-Greensboro.

    Debbage said the report could help raise the economic profile of PTI and Smith Reynolds in the Triad.

    “Sometimes, I think folks in the Triad do not fully appreciate PTI because they tend to value its significance based on the frequency of air passenger flights and the availability of competitive low fares,” Debbage said.

    “Some of the highest paying jobs in the Triad are located just across the runway from the passenger terminals at PTI.”