The average annual economic impact of the Northeast Florida Regional Airport on the state as a whole is estimated to be more than $1.4 billion, according to a study released last week by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The recent projection is nearly three times that of the last study issued in 2014 when the total economic impact of the Northeast Florida Regional Airport was found to be $409,573,000.
Though the airport in St. Augustine does not currently run any commercial routes, charter flights, tenant businesses, payroll and visitor spending all contribute to the total fiscal output of the airport, which has three runways.
In addition to serving the Navy, Coast Guard and local law enforcement for a variety of purposes, the facility also houses two flight schools.
The Florida Statewide Aviation Impact Economic Study was conducted over three years and completed last month. According to figures compiled by the state DOT, the Northeast Florida Regional Airport has a direct on-air impact of $850,529,000 which includes airport administration, airport tenants, general aviation spending and business use. Visitor spending ($45,273,000) and other “multiplier effects” — such as military spending and industry transportation reliance — ($576,633,000) were projected to add almost another $622 million to economic activity.
Special events, like The Players, also play a part in boosting traffic at the airport.
“We’re already the busiest airport in Northeast Florida in terms of takeoffs and landings,” said Ed Wuellner, executive director of the Northeast Florida Regional Airport, during a March interview with The Record. “It’s certainly a positive impact. It provides visibility of our community.”
Employment at the airport has also increased over the last five years, from 4,007 workers in 2014 to 5,624 in 2019. Total labor income went up from $125,951,000 to $343,082,000 over the same period of time.
The study looked at 129 public use airports throughout Florida. Currently, the aviation industry injects about $175 billion annually to the statewide economy.
“Airports play an important role in our economy,” Suzanne Green, chair of the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority, said in a press release. “Airports serve as local employment centers, provide a wide variety of jobs, attract capital investment and transport tourism and business travelers whose spending is vital to our local and state economy.”
Orlando International Airport accounted for $41 billion of the state’s total aviation impact. Among similar sized airports in Florida, Lake City Gateway Airport generated just over $1 million annually, with 4,079 jobs produced.