Last week, I was honored to speak to attendees at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Leadership Conference. One key focus of the meeting was to set the economic development priorities.
I began to think about the impact large businesses can have on our region. The billions of dollars in overall economic impact. Thousands of jobs. The success of related businesses that provide corporate employees’ food, transportation and housing.
Being an airport director, of course, I thought: This is what an airport does for our community. In short, air service development is economic development.
An $8 Billion Impact
Each year, as outlined in a report by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation, RDU has an $8 billion impact on our community. This number encompasses not only the investment of businesses directly related to the airport, such as cargo and rental car, but also the 20,000+ employees who hold jobs that somehow support airport activities.
Also, we can’t forget the benefits the airport brings to local businesses that depend on air travel to connect with their customers, employees and business partners.
While $8 billion makes a big impact, it grows with each new flight that departs RDU.
One of our biggest priorities at RDU is air service development. It is important, of course, because the region’s business community depends upon it for its success. But we must not forget the dollar impact on our community.
Each new flight that is recruited to RDU is similar to the recruitment or expansion of a new business. As one of my colleagues said, new service is a manufacturing plant with wings.
Air Service Development as Economic Development
So what is the economic impact of a new domestic flight? The average impact is $20 to $30 million annually. An international flight, on the other hand, can have a $55 million impact, annually, on a community, and that is being conservative.
So I must say it again. Air service development is economic development.
Our air service development team works tirelessly to identify underserved destinations that we know our passengers need to get to. While we continue to prioritize the domestic destinations on our must-have list, we are putting much of our focus on international air service.
Why international service? Don’t we already have London? Yes. But I believe, as does our team, that our region can support additional non-stop service to a transatlantic destination. Each year, one million international travelers arrive and depart RDU each year.
Our region has the demand to support additional international service, and this will be one of RDU’s primary focuses over the coming years. It will also be the focus of a series of blog posts about the pursuit of new air service and a region’s role in attracting and retaining it.
I look forward to engaging you in this conversation, through this blog and through events and meetings such as the Raleigh Chamber’s Summer Leadership Conference.