Dawn Hankins Shelbyville Times-Gazette
Shelbyville airport boosts state’s economy
March 9, 2021
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  • A 2019 aviation economic impact study completed and released recently by the Tennessee Department of Transportation highlights how Shelbyville Municipal Airport, U.S. 231 North, has a total economic impact (output) to state coffers of nearly $22.4 million.

    Shelbyville Municipal Airport Director Paul Perry said this study is a good representation of the annual economic impact of the aviation system during a “non-pandemic world.”

    TDOT reports aviation in Tennessee is big business, contributing annually an estimated $40 billion in total economic activity. As well, airports deliver revenues in the billions and supply hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to the study.

    In addition, TDOT reports that aviation contributes about 11 percent of Tennessee’s gross domestic product (GDP)-an important statistic as it is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period.

    With such a potentially large economic impact from aviation, TDOT entered into a contract in August 2019 with Kimley-Horn, a planning and engineering services company, to provide a Statewide Aviation System Plan and Aviation Economic Impact Study of Tennessee’s public-use airport system. This plan focuses on the economic benefits received in 2019.

    TDOT further analyzed the economic impacts of on-airport activities, off-airport activities, multiplier impacts, and freight/cargo. This is where Shelbyville did quite well, based on the impact study numbers.

    Examples of on-airport activities include economic impacts from business tenants, airport construction spending and airport employment. Off-airport impacts include visitor spending, with Shelbyville’s economic impact in this area over $600,000, as estimated by TDOT.

    The state believes Shelbyville Municipal and other Tennessee airports serve as gateways to the state for business and leisure travels. State officials report that airports are generally the first and last impression visitors have of the state and help influence repeat visitors.

    The state said airports like Shelbyville’s in turn have positively contributed to the state’s tourism growth as a whole, which increased 6 percent between 2018 and 2019. This is likely music to city officials’ ears as one of the long-term objectives is to improve tourism within the area, particularly Shelbyville.

    New City Manager Joshua Ray welcomed these study findings as a great asset to the community he now represents. “The City of Shelbyville is fortunate to have such a valuable asset in our community. Our airport is a vital part of our local and regional economies and this economic impact analysis proves that value of our operations.”

    Ray said the municipal airport is an asset to the local community but also to Tennessee’s overall $40 billion aviation industry. Airports serve as a catalyst for people to conduct business, serve clients, and ship cargo, Ray said.

    “Having a well maintained and diverse aviation system supports a robust economy,” explained Ray, who worked in a Texas town located near Houston, prior to moving to Shelbyville earlier this year.

    One thing that generally always catches a city manager’s eye are overall tax impacts from such local resources. In addition to doing that, based on this TDOT report, solid airports also contribute to industry reliance, which has become a plus for Shelbyville Municipal.

    The state’s aviation economic impact study revealed that Tennessee’s automotive industry is one of its top aviation-reliant industries. The automotive manufacturing cluster includes three major assembly plants and automotive operations in 88 of 95 counties, with Nissan North America in Franklin and its plant in Smyrna being the most productive, according to TDOT research.

    Apparently a lot of out-of-town visitors enjoy Tennessee airports as well. TDOT reports in the 2019 study that almost 7 million out-of-state visitors traveled through regions on behalf of the state’s commercial service or general aviation airports, contributing around $9 billion to the state’s economy.

    View the executive summary, including the breakdown of each Tennessee airport, at https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/tdot/aeronautics/TASP-Economic%20Impact%20Broc....