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June 5, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
Wyoming’s airports make "a notable contribution" to the state’s economy, enhancing residents’ quality of life, according to an economic impact report prepared for the state’s aeronautics division. The agency has made the report and related information available online, and encourages local airport advocates to use the publications as educational tools.
The 2013 Wyoming Airports Economic Impact Study updates findings from research conducted in 2009, documenting aviation’s beneficial effect on jobs, the "vital" tourism industry, businesses, public safety, education, and other sectors. Researchers collected and analyzed data from surveys, direct contacts with stakeholders, and other outreach methods.
The agency also posted the report’s summaries of individual airports’ economic contributions and a video explaining how airport supporters can make effective use of the information in contacts with policymakers.
Taken as a whole, the study said, aviation activity in some manner supports 13 percent of all employment in Wyoming. The study estimated the economic impact of on-airport activity and off-airport spending by visitors at $1.4 billion, or 3.6 percent of Wyoming’s annual gross state product.
"Annually, airports and the activities they support clearly make a notable contribution to the state’s economy and to local economies throughout Wyoming," it said.
One key measure of the aviation industry’s economic impact on a state is tax revenue generated by aviation-related enterprises. “On an annual basis, it is estimated that the airports and the activities they support contribute a total of $55 million to state and local tax revenues in Wyoming,” the report said. It noted major tax revenue sources including $9.9 million in business sales taxes from airport tenants; $1.4 million in tax revenues from capital improvement purchases; and $38.6 million in sales tax revenues from commercial and general aviation visitors to the state.
The report identified 12,268 jobs associated with "airport operations, capital investment and visitor spending" adding up to payrolls worth $526.4 million. Another 38,100 nonaviation jobs are "routinely" made more efficient through the use of airports, it said.
AOPA has long encouraged states to produce and update economic impact reports for their value in quantifying aviation’s contributions to economies and communities, said David Ulane, AOPA’s Northwest/Mountain regional manager. The reports offer local airport advocates an excellent tool for informing the decision-making process, he added.
Christy Yaffa, manager of airports planning and budgeting for the Wyoming Aeronautics Division, said summary reports for individual airports are also available on the agency’s website. She encouraged members interested in advocating for their local airports to view a tutorial video that helps advocates navigate the reports in presentations to decision makers.
For lawmakers contemplating votes on aviation-related legislation, and for municipal policy makers who may have to decide local issues affecting the community airport, economic impact studies can prove a decisive factor, Ulane said.
"General aviation airports utilized by AOPA members play a vital role in the economies of local communities. Members should remember to point to these studies as we work to protect, promote, and grow general aviation in their states," he said.
Glenn Januska, president of the Wyoming Airport Operators Association and the manager of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, agreed that the latest study could be particularly valuable as a tool to demonstrate the economic contributions of community airports to policymakers unfamiliar with general aviation’s local impact.
The report could become a tool to illustrate the impact of any service reductions at airports with limited commuter or regional airline service, as carriers cope with complications arising from new minimum flight-time requirements for pilots—critical policy guidance as states like Wyoming consider subsidy levels to fund from air service enhancement programs.
Taking time to view the Wyoming Aeronautics Division’s online video tutorial can help members effectively highlight key points from the economic impact report and the individual airport summaries, Yaffa said.
"It gives you a really good understanding of what these numbers mean," she said. "Then just go and talk to decision makers in the community."
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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