Airports in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina generated $10.55 billion in fiscal 2019 revenue for their local communities, according to an N.C. Aviation Division report released Monday.
The report is conducted biannually, which means it does not reflect the dramatic economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state's 72 airports, including the 10 in the Triad and Northwest N.C.
"The data will provide a benchmark for tracking the recovery that’s expected in 2021," the division said in the report.
Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro was listed with an overall economic impact of $8.64 billion, placing it third among the state's 10 commercial-service airports.
Meanwhile, Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem was listed with an $814.8 million economic impact, tops among the state's 62 general aviation airports and seventh among all N.C. airports.
However, PTI was overshadowed by the $24.58 billion impact at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and $15.15 billion at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
“One of the airport’s two key missions is to be a significant driver of the local economy," Kevin Baker, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, said in a statement.
"This report indicates that we are meeting that objective.”
Paul Mengert, chairman of PTI's authority, said "this study shows that our economic development efforts are paying off and that we need to push forward with them, now more than ever.”
Mount Airy/Surry County Airport placed second among general aviation facilities at $691 million.
The division’s report on The State of Aviation considers three primary spending categories: direct, indirect (primarily suppliers) and induced (defined as revenue, wages, jobs generated by industry-to-industry transactions, and employee and supplier spending on local goods and services, such as shopping at Hanes Mall).
The induced economic totals in these kinds of studies have drawn some criticism for inflating the overall impact. Similar studies involving not-for-profit healthcare systems also have included induced spending.
Statewide, the report found an overall economic impact of $60.76 billion and 372,545 jobs. That includes 30,015 jobs listed for PTI, 3,665 for Smith Reynolds and 2,545 for Mount Airy/Surry County.
For commercial-service airports, the analysis quantified the impact of leisure visitors, on-airport contributions (jobs, income and spending by tenants, such as airlines, rental-car companies and airport security) and the impact of airport capital projects and operations (construction, facility maintenance and operational services).
Included in that category for PTI would be the FedEx cargo-sorting hub, the HAECO maintenance facilities and the HondaJet manufacturing operations, and other companies with operations on its campus.
PTI leads the state in cargo service with total annual processed freight of 303,500 tons.
HAECO has nearly 3,000 of the state’s 4,583 maintenance and repair workers in a state that ranks fifth in the nation in aerospace maintenance and repair employment.
For the general aviation sector, the analysis quantified the impact of jobs supported by the airport directly, jobs supported by businesses that rely on the airport, and the impact of visitors.
That category for Smith Reynolds would include Raytheon Technologies Corp. and NS Aviation operations on or adjacent to its campus.
The Triad also leads the state in the number of students enrolled in local community college aviation programs, with more than 500 students enrolled in Guilford Technical Community College programs.