Kansas Airports' economic impact hits billions

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Aug. 26--TOPEKA -- Airports statewide generate about $10.4 billion in economic impact each year, a study released Wednesday by the Kansas Transportation Department shows.

A majority of that -- $7.2 billion -- comes from Wichita and surrounding counties. That includes $4.68 billion from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, $1.8 billion from the Hawker Beechcraft factory airport and $891 million from Cessna Aircraft Field.

Aviation in general, including airports and manufacturing, has about a $20 billion annual impact in Kansas.

"Airports provide a connection for communities to the national air transportation system and the world economy," said Lt. Gov. Troy Findley in Topeka. "General aviation is another primary way that goods and services are transported from big cities to small communities, providing the tools that businesses need to function each and every day."

The study, conducted by Wilbur Smith Associates, said it focused on "identifying economic benefits associated with the businesses and tenants that are located on each of the airports."

Airports generate 47,651 jobs in the state, the study said. That includes a wide range of jobs dependent on airports, including at airlines, flight schools, agricultural sprayers, corporate flight departments, mechanics, and the FAA and other government entities that oversee airports.

"Furthering our aviation industry furthers the Kansas economy and our road to recovery," Findley said.

The study was funded by $337,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration and $16,500 from the Kansas Department of Transportation. It helps show the importance of airports and aviation in the state, said Jim Johnson, FAA Central Region Airports manager.

"An airport is the gateway to the entire surrounding community," he said.

Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said she was surprised at the economic impact.

"I would never have guessed that 50 percent of the economic impact of aviation came from airport activities," she said.

Transportation officials knew airports had an impact, but "we didn't have any numbers to prove it and we didn't know ourselves what the numbers were," Miller said. The report will help lawmakers and the department decide where the best investments are for public and private resources. It also will help target gaps in service.

"So we will know when we are making an investment we are not duplicating an investment that is right next door," she said.

The department also announced $1.3 million in state grants to 25 airports for a variety of improvements.

The recipients in south-central Kansas:

--Anthony, $148,500 to replace fuel systems and rebuild the taxiway.

--Augusta, $11,625 to remodel the pilot's lounge and gutters for T-hangars.

--Wichita-Riverside, $47,500 for a feasibility study to create an airport development plan.

--Wellington, $11,250 to install ground communications outlet.

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