New state report outlines economic impact of airports

  • By John Wolcott HBJ Freelance Writer
  • Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:28am

Washington’s 135 public airports, including Paine Field, Arlington Airport, Harvey Field and Darrington Airport, are continuing to help local economies by supporting thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in taxes for cities and counties throughout the state, according to a new state report.

In a document released in April by the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, based at the Arlington Airport, state officials estimated the state’s public-use airports are responsible for 248,500 jobs, $15.3 billion in wages and $50.9 billion in total economic activity.

More than $791 million in tax revenues are generated for the state’s general fund while cities, counties and special purpose districts collect approximately $240 million in taxes each year, according to the study.

Recognizing the importance of that local impact, Arlington Airport held its annual Airport Appreciation Day May 5 and Paine Field held its 17th annual Aviation Day event May 19. Both celebrations regularly draw large crowds to see aircraft displays.

“The study helps us take a much closer, detailed look at our system in terms of its economic benefits and provides unique insight from the perspective of the airports, the industry and those who use our services,” WSDOT Aviation Director Tristan Atkins said in a news release. “Ultimately, it’s a tool that helps us improve the way we do business.”

He said the 2012 report, updating the last study in 2001, “also helps us provide some much-needed updates to economic data such as the jobs, wages and types of businesses at each airport. … The message is overwhelmingly positive.”

By comparison, back in 2001, the state’s airports generated 171,300 jobs, more than $4 billion in wages and $18.5 billion in total economic activity. Although resources for the data were slightly different in the 2012 study, those categories showed significant increases of 77,200 jobs, $11.3 billion in wages and $32.4 billion in sales in economic impact over the last decade.

The aviation division also is creating an online calculator that will allow users to explore economic development opportunities, attract businesses and weigh investment choices at individual airports. The interactive economic calculator is scheduled to be completed this spring and will integrate data from WSDOT’s Airport Information System database, which provides an in-depth look at the state’s airports.

“The study finds that there are significant direct economic and fiscal benefits created by the aviation system in the state,” according to the report’s summary statement. “The (airport) system is a core element of the state’s transportation infrastructure that supports local and state economic prosperity. … The value derived by individuals, communities and businesses from their access to … aviation services far exceeds even the direct job, wage and output impacts.”

On the Web

To read the report, go to aviation/WAEconomicStudy.htm.