June 20, 2012

Chicago-area residents will enjoy an estimated $117 million benefit this year from the presence of business-oriented DuPage Airport (DPA) in West Chicago, according to a new independent study. The research also finds nearly 1,000 jobs dependent on the airport.

“We’ve weathered the storm,” said DuPage Airport Executive Director David Bird, talking about the recent recession. “Business activity is clearly tracking with the recovery; we’re a lot more optimistic than we were a year ago at this time.”

Review the economic impact study (476 KB, PDF)

Independent economic research company Gruen Gruen + Associates, of Deerfield, IL, conducted the economic impact study. The firm analyzed all expenditures by the airport authority and its subsidiaries, including the DuPage Flight Center, DuPage Business Center and expenditures by privately owned businesses on the airport. The firm also considered visitor spending for hotel nights and meals, estimating that half of visitors will stay overnight, and 55 percent of those will add about $3 million to the economic impact in that county alone and $7 million in the rest of the Chicago area.

The total estimated 2012 economic impact of $117 million for DPA was calculated based on $69 million for direct airport expenditures and $48 million in indirect impact.

DuPage Airport was built by the U.S. Navy in 1941 to train pilots for World War II, and converted to a civilian airport after the war. Its 7,571-foot runway 2L-20R is one of the longest in the Chicago area, but the airport recently broke ground to extend its parallel runway 2R-20L to 6,350 feet – long enough to accommodate a wider variety of business aircraft.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics for the 12 months ending April 30, 2012 show 83,191 GA takeoffs and landings, with more than 63 percent being visitors to the area. Bird said the majority were business aircraft, noting that the airport’s sales of Jet-A fuel account for more than 90 percent of the 3 million gallons of fuel sold annually.

The airport recently won praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for upgrading its services, paying off all debts and cutting the taxpayer subsidy by two thirds. The airport, which at one point was losing $2 million a year, is now making $2 million a year, and now contributes $1.34 million annually in taxes to DuPage County.

Under Bird, the airport is also making a point of showing neighbors it is part of the community. Each summer in July or August the airport sponsors a “Community Days” weekend. This year’s event, slated for Aug. 10-12, is billed as a fun and affordable family-friendly weekend, with vintage military aircraft, GA introductory flights, local GA aircraft on display and more.

“We want the public to experience firsthand the tremendous history of aviation, and hope we stimulate an interest in young people to pursue flying,” said Bird. “Additionally, it’s a nice way to provide some payback for people who contribute to the airport through their tax dollars.”