Airports and Economic Development

One for Ashtabula County.

Airport service, especially direct flight offerings, has a tremendous impact on local economies (Initiative for a Competitive Inner City). A lack of direct flights can mean bad news for BRE efforts, as Sacramento found out in 2012 when its largest company relocated to Texas, citing the need for more direct flights to key markets.

Many places are forming regional partnerships to improve airport infrastructure and court new airlines. In Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C., a coalition of business leaders is trying to raise $500,000 to support attraction efforts for additional flight offerings. Despite hosting the world-famous Research Triangle, the region only has one flight leaving North America, which was added to the Raleigh-Durham airport only after a large pharmaceutical company lobbied American Airlines for it.

In Ontario, the municipalities of St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, who jointly fund the Niagara District Airport, have proposed transferring ownership to the Regional Municipality of Niagara in order to expand flight offerings (St. Catharines Standard). It is hoped that buy-in from other municipalities will support the airport’s growth plans.

Indeed, the question of who pays and how much can cause tension among neighboring communities. In the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, residents of only one county pay property taxes that support an airport serving several communities across state lines. Some have proposed expanding the airport’s taxing district to ensure fairness and provide increased funding to expand services (Quad-City Times).

Denver and Adams County, which jointly administer the Denver International Airport, are revisiting their original intergovernmental agreement to expand commercial usage around the airport (Economic Development HQ). Under the new agreement, both entities would split tax revenue from new retail, office parks, warehouses, and manufacturing activity, and the airport will keep their lease revenues.

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