Photo: Pete K. (Flickr)
A report released by the Aviation Association of Indiana and Conexus Indiana indicates Indiana’s airport industry contributes $14.1 billion to the state economy annually. it also shows airports around the state employ more than 69,000 workers, with nearly half of those at regional and municipal airports.
But the economic impact extends beyond those who work at the airports.
“A lot of times people see these small airplanes, but they don’t quite understand that small airport may be the sales people flying out to bring business back to the communities,” says Bart Giesler, executive director of the Aviation Association of Indiana.
Additionally, Giesler says, every time people fly into a town, Giesler says they spend money at local businesses.
The Columbus Municipal Airport has a $650 million impact on the local economy, according to the report. Columbus Airport Director Brian Payne, who is also a member of the Aviation Association, says that shows why the state should be investing more in aviation.
“We as a whole Aviation Association of Indiana are trying to raise those funds and match additional projects because we are an overly-utilized resource that people really just don’t know how impactful we are not only to the local community but to the entire state of Indiana,” he says.
Payne says Indiana only spends a fraction of its budget on aviation compared to the money it allocates to other transportation projects.
But Indiana Business Research Center Director Jerry Conover says such studies often exaggerate economic impact. There is also cost.
“What it doesn’t directly address in the report is: is the payoff from an investment to enhance the airport operation going to be greater than what it would cost to actually build it, operate, do the larger scale work,” Conover says.
Conover says the report is designed to give industry leaders support when applying for more local, state or federal money.