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Study shows aviation's worth in Pa.
December 7, 2011
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  • December 7, 2011 By: Kent Jackson
    Activity at Hazleton Municipal Airport indirectly supports 48 jobs with a payroll of $1.7 million that adds $5.7 million to the local economy, a study done for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said.
    The study measures the contribution from general aviation airports like Hazleton’s and commercial airports like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.
    Across the state, businesses from flight schools to crop dusters operate at airports. Other companies such as manufacturers of aircraft parts or air freight carriers depend on airports even if their factories and warehouses are miles away.
    Those firms buy supplies from other companies. Their employees spend money in communities near airports. So do business people and tourists who fly into airports.
    All told, Pennsylvania airports support 304,462 jobs with payrolls of $9.2 billion. Those dollars are re-spent, building to an overall impact $23.6 billion on the state’s economy, the study said. Wilbur Smith Associates use 2010 figures while compiling the study for PennDOT, which released the study last month.
    Much of the impact comes from the 15 commercial airports. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Avoca, for example, supports 4,511 jobs with a payroll of $128 million and overall effect of $327 million.
    The 116 general aviation airports, however, play a role, too.
    While 5.9 million people flew into commercial airports, one-tenth that many passengers – 602,000 people – flew into general aviation airports. “Just today, we had a company in here out of Chicago,” Robert Delese, the manager of Hazleton’s airport said Tuesday.
    The delegation that flew in are considering buying a business in the Hazleton area, Delese said.
    Hazleton’s airport, meanwhile, has two aircraft maintenance businesses, a skydiving business and a company that offers flight lessons and scenic tours, Delese said.
    In addition, the state police base a helicopter at the airport. The state Bureau of Forestry bases a plane at the airport one month a year when wildfire risk is heightened. Two city employees work at the airport in addition to Delese, who volunteers. As manager, he oversees sales of av-gas and jet fuel, the proceeds of which go to the city. A rental car company with no ties to the airport nevertheless operates nearby on the Airport Beltway.
    Other local airports fill similar niches in their communities.
    The Joe Zerbey Airport, serving Schuylkill County eight miles from Pottsville in Cass Township, supports 58 jobs with a payroll of $1.69 million and overall economic effect of $4.69 million, the study found.
    In Forty Fort, a secondary airport for Luzerne County, the study lists the jobs at 21, payroll at $218,500 and total impact at $3.36 million.
    The study pegged the contribution from Carbon County’s Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Lehighton as four jobs with a $100,200 payroll and total impact of $415,900.
    Air transportation supports emergency medical services, agriculture, public safety, the military and tourism, the study said.
    Nearly 1.1 million or 20 percent of the state’s workforce depends on aviation, the study said. Of businesses that responded to a survey for the study, 84 percent said their employees rely on commercial aviation.
    Asked the importance of 13 factors to consider when selecting a location for a business, companies ranked proximity to a commercial airport No. 6. Proximity to a general aviation airport came in at No. 9.
    Even people who never go to an airport, the study said, benefit from services such as overnight delivery of packages.

    Date: 2011-12-07