C.J. Lovelace The Herald-Mail
Study ranks Hagerstown Regional Airport high in economic impact
March 27, 2013
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  • An economic impact study released Monday by the Maryland Aviation Administration ranked Hagerstown Regional Airport third out of 35 public-use airports in the state for 2012.

    Throughout the state, nearly 8,700 jobs can be traced to the aviation industry, creating personal wages of more than $442 million in the past year, the study shows. Additionally, more than $665 million in business revenue was generated, including approximately $222 million as a result of local purchases.

    Generating more than $109 million in business revenues and supporting a total of 1,338 aviation-related jobs, Hagerstown trailed only Martin State Airport ($224 million) and Frederick Municipal Airport ($110 million), according to the study.

    “It’s fantastic. It means jobs. It’s buildings,” Airport Director Phil Ridenour said Tuesday of the study. “It’s economic impact for Washington County.”

    Washington County Commissioner William B. McKinley said the study shows that the airport is a “tremendous economic engine presently, and even more so, potentially for the Washington County area.”

    On Tuesday, $43 million in federal funding was announced for two more surveillance planes produced by Sierra Nevada Corp., a defense contractor with a manufacturing facility at the Hagerstown airport. The money to produce the planes, which are used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will protect about 200 local jobs into the future.

    “Those things are really significant,” McKinley said of the border patrol planes. “… From what I have heard, and this is unofficial, there’s probably going to be 20 more of these airplanes needed in the future.

    “I’m hoping Sierra Nevada will get their share of those,” he said.

    Including Sierra Nevada, the airport has more than 12 aviation-related businesses, providing numerous services including aircraft rental, heated hangars, computerized weather, aircraft inspections, and aircraft maintenance and repair. A flight school also conducts discovery flights, pilot ground school and flight training.

    Allegiant Air and Sun Air International operate commercial and commuter flights in and out of Hagerstown.

    In terms of jobs, Hagerstown ranked second in total and direct jobs with 790, behind only Martin State Airport’s total jobs of 1,971 and direct jobs of 1,078.

    McKinley said the report helps dispel the myth that the airport is “nothing but a black economic hole.” He also pointed out that the airport functions like an enterprise fund, meaning it pays its own expenses through its revenues, although the county does support capital improvement expenditures.

    McKinley said that the county supplied only about 5 percent of the total cost of recent extension of the airport’s runway, which has made the facility more attractive to businesses.

    Employees of airside businesses at Hagerstown brought in a total personal income of $74.4 million in 2012, the study shows.

    “This is really major for our community,” McKinley said. “Every time we create a job, the job is not only providing an income to a family, but it also enhances all the places where that family spends their money — the restaurants, the clothing stores, everything.

    “The fact that we have this number of jobs out there, I think the future is bright for the airport even with this temporary setback with the tower,” he said.

    Hagerstown’s air traffic control tower was named by the Federal Aviation Administration as one of 149 federally contracted towers to close as part of federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

    County Commissioner John F. Barr said a lot of people don’t realize how many jobs are associated with the airport, and he’s hopeful the study will reinforce the negative impact sequestration cuts could have on the area economically.

    The federal tower closures are set to begin April 7, but Hagerstown’s tower isn’t scheduled to close until May 5, Ridenour said. County and airport officials have said they will work to find ways to keep the tower open in the absence of federal money — by using county or state funds, or a combination of the two.