The Canandaigua Airport is centrally located in the Finger Lakes region, a premier tourist destination in the state. Travelers from within the state and around the world use our airport to access the beauty of the Finger Lakes for their vacation. Moreover, the airport supports many industries and businesses, including tourism, transportation, real estate, agriculture, wine, and food production and many more. In fact, the region attracted more than 4.8 million leisure visitors. In 2018, visitors added a combined $2.432 billion to our local economy.
The aviation industry contributes over $72.3 billion in annual economic activity in New York state and more than 500,000 New York-based jobs in aviation or aviation-related industries, generating $25.8 billion in payroll and well over $6 billion in state and local tax revenue annually.
General Aviation (GA) airports such as ours are crucial economic drivers, supporting not only large industries but smaller businesses as well, being utilized as transportation hubs for equipment and personnel. GA airports facilitate a number of critical services, such as medical care, emergency response, disaster relief, law enforcement and the safeguarding of utility transmission. Patients requiring access to life-saving treatments (located in larger cities) via the Angel Flight East program and other similar charitable organizations rely on these smaller airports.
New York’s aviation industry faces some critical challenges. When it comes to infrastructure, we tend to picture larger airports, highways, and trains. However, we must also consider general aviation. As legislators focus on transportation infrastructure, our leaders must understand the value of these non-commercial airports.
In 2015, The Aviation Jobs Act was passed to encourage investment in general aviation. It boosted aviation businesses statewide, and made the New York aviation industry competitive with surrounding states through direct investment of millions of dollars on the construction of hangars, offices, and other aeronautical-related facilities. Furthermore, the Aviation Jobs Act is what allows New York state to attract and support the aeronautical business.
State lawmakers are currently considering legislation (Senate Bill 7135 and Assembly Bill 9053) that would repeal the Aviation Jobs Act. This would place New York at a severe competitive disadvantage in the aviation industry and effectively reverse the aviation job creation and economic growth in communities throughout the state. Aircraft are a mobile asset. Removing incentives provided in the Aviation Jobs Act will ultimately drive away the very businesses brought into New York by the 2015 legislation. With an increasing worldwide pilot and aircraft mechanic shortage, New York should instead be looking toward further incentivizing the aviation industry to be competitive in this growing field.
As leaders at the state and local level consider transportation-related legislation, I remain hopeful they will bear in mind potential missed opportunities as well as grasp the importance of the critical sector of aviation to our state and local economies.
Robert Mincer is manager of strategic assets at the Ontario County Industrial Development Agency and airport manager of the Canandaigua Airport