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Aviation Growth Increases Economic Benefits to Washington State

May 7, 2012

Over the past two years, some legislators in Washington state tried unsuccessfully to shore up the state budget by adding a 0.5 percent annual tax on aircraft based there. Now, a new study shows aviation already generates approximately $548 million a year for the state’s general fund. The industry also generated $243 million a year for local governments.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said NBAA Northwest Regional Representative Kristi Ivey, who, along with two others representing the interests of business aviation in WA, sat on the advisory committee for this study. “The results truly demonstrate the positive impact of aviation in Washington. The message is: let’s not attack something that creates a positive balance of trade for the state.”

Washington operates 135 public-use airports statewide. Aviation generates approximately 248,500 jobs that pay $15.3 billion in wages and generate $50.9 billion in economic activity.

When you compare that to similar data gathered in 2001, the growth of aviation in Washington is startling. Since a decade ago, the number of jobs generated by the state’s airports grew 45percent (from 171,300 to 248,500). Aviation generated 283-percent more in wages (from $4 billion to $15.3 billion) and 57-percent more total economic impact (from $32.4 billion to $50.9 billion).

“That jobs number – an increase of 77,200 jobs in just a little over a decade – is what the legislators and the people of Washington state need to see,” declared Ivey.

The study also outlined the benefits of having a general aviation facility nearby. “Aviation infrastructure will be a critical element to rural economic development efforts. This study underscores the importance of aviation facilities and services in these parts of the state. The study identifies a critical economic value of smaller facilities, namely access to lifesaving medical air transport and other critical services, such as fire fighting, that protect life and property in smaller rural areas,” the authors wrote in their executive summary.

Their recognition of aviation’s critical role to the entire state went further: “Communities, particularly those in rural or remote areas, benefit from aviation services and activities in many ways that aren’t captured in either the airport or industry perspectives. One example of these services is aviation-supported firefighting activities, which protect private property from destruction wrought by wildfires. Preventing losses to private property supports the tax base of entire communities. It also protects natural resources that have both industrial uses (e.g. timber for logging) and recreational uses (e.g. hiking in state parks),” the study concluded.

In addition, the study noted that aviation users in Washington derive benefits from 17 services, including search and rescue, medical evacuation and cargo transport.

“Clearly, the jobs at SEA-TAC [Seattle-Tacoma International Airport] speak for themselves. But this study shows just as clearly that aviation is not just about servicing the airlines. It’s how general aviation and GA airports spread benefits into the smaller communities to create a positive economic impact,” said Ivey.