Charlotte/Douglas Int'l Airport Plays a Big Role in Local Economy

Nov. 22--Charlotte/Douglas International Airport generates nearly $10 billion a year for the Charlotte region's economy and supports more than 100,000 jobs, according to a UNC Charlotte study released Monday.

The study, commissioned by the airport, shows that airport tenants account for $4.1 billion.

For the region's economy, though, perhaps of greater significance is the estimated $5.1 billion benefit to employers in the area who depend on the airport. The study authors reached that figure by asking a sample of companies to estimate how much of their sales are related to Charlotte air travel, then multiplying to represent all employers.

Hotels, travel agencies and airport contractors also receive benefits from the airport, the study said, but in amounts far less than those of the other two groups.

"The airport is the greatest economic generator of jobs in the entire region," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said at a news conference announcing the study's results. "We would be a different city today without this airport."

McCrory and Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan said the airport, with its 500-plus daily nonstop flights, has helped attract companies such as General Dynamics and the Vanguard Group to the city. It probably plays a big role in keeping Charlotte's big banks headquartered here, they said.

Charlotte's airport is the 18th-largest in the country by passengers, thanks largely to its status as US Airways' largest hub.

Most of the other recent economic-impact studies in the Charlotte region have focused on sports teams, and the studies have been used to help justify government involvement in projects such as a basketball arena, whitewater park and auto-racing hall of fame.

In the case of the airport, the study released Monday updates a 1997 study that showed the airport pumped $4 billion a year into the local economy and supported 72,000 jobs.

Airport director Jerry Orr said the study is needed to help answer the question: "Why is the airport important?" The Charlotte Chamber has also printed a promotional brochure touting the study's findings.

The city-run airport has expansion plans. Most of the money has already been earmarked for those projects, which include adding another parking deck and runway and expanding terminals for commuter jets and corporate planes. The airport is also planning a freight terminal that would allow transfers between trains and trucks.

The airport has an annual budget of $91 million a year, which comes from airport operations including parking, concessions, rental-car fees and plane-ticket surcharges. The city uses no property-tax revenue to fund the airport.

The airport paid $15,800 for the study, which was done by Edd Hauser and Nicholas Swartz of UNC Charlotte's Center for Transportation Policy Studies.