March 8, 2012

Massachusetts’ 30 general aviation (GA) airports accounted for 4,307 jobs, nearly $138 million in salaries and had a total economic impact on the state of more than $443 million in 2010, according to the Massachusetts Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study published recently by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MADOT) Aeronautics Division.

The study also found that the state’s GA airports had a total replacement value of nearly $1.6 billion.

In addition to their important economic benefits, the report recognized that Massachusetts’ GA and commercial airports “provide many qualitative benefits related to the health, welfare, and safety that help preserve and improve the overall quality of life in the Commonwealth.”

Specifically, these benefits include:

  • Facilitating emergency medical transport
  • Providing police support
  • Providing youth-outreach activities
  • Conducting search-and-rescue operations
  • Supporting the U.S. military and other government organizations

The study evaluated the impact of all 39 of Massachusetts’ public-use airports, including commercial facilities such as Boston Logan International. Included in the commercial category were several regional airports, including Laurence G. Hanscom Field in Bedford and New Bedford Regional Airport. “They all have commercial service, but general aviation is a big driver in all of these facilities,” said Christopher J. Willenborg, administrator for the MADOT Aeronautics Division.

The study also calculated the economic impact of aircraft maintenance service businesses. It found that the 63 maintenance facilities operating in the state employed 773 workers for a total payroll of $40,284,000.

Overall, the report said the state’s airports generated $11.9 billion in total annual economic activity, including $4.9 billion in total annual payroll for 124,369 aviation-related jobs. The study used an FAA-approved methodology for calculating not only the direct economic impact and benefits of aviation businesses, but also the “multiplier” effects of aviation-related employee spending on other areas of the economy. “For example, when FBO [fixed base operator] employees use their salary to buy groceries at the local store, their spending helps support that store and its employees,” the report said. “That spending then re-circulates, or multiplies, in local economies…”

However, looking solely at direct and multiplier economic impacts within the state, the study calculated that every $100 spent directly by an aviation-related business in Massachusetts creates an additional $56 of impact within the state borders.

The MADOT Aeronautics Division produced the study with funding from the FAA. The goal of the study is to promote the strong economic and qualitative life benefits of the state’s commercial and GA airports to a variety of audiences.

“We all realize that our airports are economic engines, but we really wanted to quantify what that value is by looking at direct and indirect economic impacts,” Willenborg said, adding that this is the first report of its kind produced by the department since the late 1990s. “We really wanted to generate a document that highlights the importance economically of our airports, so that our airport managers…can share this information with our federal, state and local legislative leaders, and the general public.”