RALEIGH EXEC: Report touts economic impact of Central Carolina airports

Dec. 21, 2012 @ 05:01 AM

North Carolina's publicly owned airports contributed more than $25 billion to local economies during fiscal year 2010-2011, recently released figures show — including $32 million coming from Raleigh Executive Jetport of Sanford-Lee County,

A report from the Institute of Transportation Research and Education reflects that Raleigh Exec Jetport contributed $32.2 million into the economy through indirect and direct contributions, helped fund 300 jobs and paid close to $1.1 million in state and local taxes.   

"I think this airport, along with airports across the state, are the main streets to any town," said Raleigh Exec Jetport Manager Brad Womble. "We are here to provide a service to people and help develop and grow our city and surrounding area."

The jetport is considered small with only seven employees, Womble said, but the jetport will continue to grow and boost economic achievements.

"We are still small in comparison," he said. "But the way we are growing, we will get to be a big-time jetport, similar to Wilmington or Concord. They have been a place of much business and great development, and we are where they started. We have nothing to do but grow." 

With a large industrial base in Lee County, the jetport sees a mix of corporate and private aircrafts that should increase when the runway is repaved and new lighting is installed at the beginning of next year, Womble said.

Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said he felt the economic contribution was a conservative estimate and that the Raleigh Exec Jetport is an essential marketing tool for economic development.

When the U.S. Open was held in Moore County in 2005, the jetport provided some relief to corporate jets flying in and provided parking space during the golf tournament, Joyce said. When the tournament returns in 2014, the jetport is expected to do the same.

Moore County Airport Executive Director Steve Borden said his operation has a supportive relationship with area shops and hotels, and those involved with the airport were pleased to have contributed $35.2 million to the economy.

"Obviously, it is a good thing to have such an impact on the surrounding community," Borden said. "We have a good working relationship with the community, and we are always proactive in pushing out information to the community."

The Harnett Regional Jetport contributed $87.9 million and paid $1.6 million in taxes, according to the report. Airport Administrator Barry Blevins said one of the first questions asked during economic development talks always concerns the jetport and transportation.

"If a company is looking to build here, they ask if there is water, sewer, highways and an airport," he said. "I think it's probably one of the highest drivers of economic development, at least for our county, and something we really push for."

Most of the planes and jets that come into Harnett County are corporate jets, and the airport offers some relief for military operations or training, Blevins said.

The Siler City Municipal Airport is smaller in size but contributed $8.7 million to the Chatham County area. Airport Manager Karen McCraw said the smaller airports give business executives the chance to make multiple stops at different locations in one day as opposed to flying commercially.

"Instead of flying commercially, getting a rental car and eating up an entire day, with our smaller airport they can get a lot done," McCraw said. "That is the benefit of general aviation."

According to the report, aviation's direct and indirect impact is significant to North Carolina and represents 6 percent of the state's GDP. Statewide, an estimated $8 million in property taxes is collected by local governments on aircrafts based in their jurisdictions.