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Trinity County
How airports help your local economy...

America is blessed with over 18,345 airports. Commercial airlines only serve 540 of these airports, or less than 3%. Out of all these airports, today's General Aviation pilot can use about 5,400 public use airports. The remainder of the airports are private airports--serving the needs of individuals, farmers, or small businesses.

General Aviation, which includes all flying except for military and airline operations, makes up over 1% of the U.S. GDP, making it almost as big as the petroleum industry.

As a result, General Aviation supports over 1.3 million high-skill, high-wage jobs in professional services and in manufacturing. General Aviation benefits the users of transportation services and the U.S. economy at large.

General Aviation (GA) increases the efficiency and productivity of businesses by reducing the travel time that would be required to drive or use more congested commercial airports; provides public health services, such as transporting patients and medical equipment; provides public safety services, such as monitoring floods or fires; alleviates congestion at commercial airports; provides an important transportation link to small communities not served by the airlines; and provides training for the majority of all new pilots.

The high value of GA is well known to the people who have to select locations for America's new factories and offices. One state recently found that more than 70% of new or expanded manufacturing firms had intentionally located themselves within ten miles of a public use airport so that they could exploit the speed and access only General Aviation can provide. Community airports allow local businesses to reach out to new markets, work with suppliers from neighboring states, or ship time-critical parts and materials to their customers in need. Local area businesses gain enduring competitive advantages when they use the nearby airport, while the surrounding community gains jobs.

Aviation in California
Source: California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency for the Year 2000

Air transportation represented 11% ($8.3 billion) of total tourism expenditures ($75.4 billion). California's air transportation employment was 52,000.

There are 710 aircraft manufacturing and parts firms. Air freight is an important part of California's foreign trade. $129.7 billion of exports through California ports of entry were carried by air; 20 percent of US import and export trade was handled through California's ports of entry; and 5.2 million tons of air cargo were transported through California's airports.

Measuring the Economic Impact

The economic impact of an airport is a measure of the benefits it provides to the community. These benefits include the jobs, wages, and expenditures that take place at the airport. They also include the effects of these expenditures in moving from hand to hand through the community, enhancing economic activity far from the airport itself.

Economic benefits also include expenditures made by those transient passengers who use the airport but spend their money at other locations. Savings in time and money that the existence of the airport permits represent another economic benefit that resides with the community. Finally, economic benefits also include the intangible effect the airport has on business decisions to locate or remain in a specific area. Business location decisions based on airport availability are intangible and harder to identify and quantify. Unfortunately, these last benefits and the social values are difficult to measure.

Economic impact as a whole comprises direct, indirect, and induced impacts.

Direct impact is associated with providers of services at the airport. These providers include the airport operator (public or private), FBOs, air carriers, freight haulers, concessionaires, government installations, educational institutions, military facilities, flight schools and maintenance operations, among others. The value of direct impact is the sum of all payroll, capital expenditures, operating and maintenance costs, taxes, and fees incurred by every provider of services. Direct impact also includes from spending in the local area by visitors who arrive by air, and spending in the local area for goods and services by airport tenants.

Strictly speaking, direct impacts should represent economic activities that would not occur in the absence of the airport. Only visitors who indicated that they would not have visited the area without the availability of the airport are taken into account.

Indirect impact is defined as the perception that the business community has on the airport's impact on local business operations. These businesses include both corporate and public users, government agencies, and aviation and non-aviation businesses. The value of this impact is the sum of the fees and charges paid, time and cost savings, and expense related to food, lodging, ground transportation, and similar outlays. Only data from businesses that responded they would lose revenue, layoff workers, or relocate out of the area if the airport were closed was included in the calculation of the indirect impact for the airports.

Local businesses that indicated tourism as their business type were excluded from the indirect impact calculations. The airports' impacts on tourism-based businesses are accounted for in the direct impact category.

Induced impact is often called "the multiplier effect." It gets this name because a dollar, once spent, does not disappear but continues to move through the local economy until it is incrementally exported from the community. Each new dollar spent effectively multiplies its own economic effect. There have been a multitude of economic studies done to definitively establish this multiplier for various geographic areas and segments of the economy.

For example, a general aviation pilot or a passenger spends $100 to stay at a local hotel. The hotel owner uses part of the $100 to pay an employee. The employee in turn uses part of the money to buy groceries in a local store and part of the money to buy something that is not locally produced. The storeowner uses part of the money received from the original employee to buy locally produced supplies and part of the money to buy non-locally produced supplies. Each transaction results in money leaving the local economy. This occurrence is referred to as leakage. With each transaction, the portion of money that remains in the local economy becomes smaller and smaller until it is zero, which completes the cycle.

Economic impact reports from other California airports

Palm Springs
Santa Barbara
Van Nuys - bussiest General Aviation airport in the US
Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Countries - August 2003

Other studies

Study of the Impact of Aviation on California's Economy
Ground Access to Airport Study, Caltrans, 2001