Economic study: Airport contribution nears $711 million

Angela Padalecki

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The Grand Junction Regional Airport contributed nearly $711 million to the Colorado economy in 2018, according to the latest results of a statewide study.

The contribution nearly doubled from the $380 million contribution in  2012, the biggest gain of any airport in Western Colorado.

The contribution likely will climb even higher when the next study is conducted because of a massive project to construct a new runway, said Angela Padalecki, executive director of the airport.

Beyond the numbers, the airport plays an important economic role in connecting the region to other cities and areas, Padalecki said. “That connectivity is huge.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics conducts a study every five years or so to assess the economic contributions of public use airports in the state. The study takes into account jobs, wages and business revenues at airports as well as visitor spending that results from commercial and general aviation.

David Ulane, aeronautics director at the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the Grand Junction Regional Airport joined in statewide gains. “The increased economic impact of airports in Colorado underscores the importance and value of aviation statewide.”

For the Grand Junction Regional Airport, on-airport activities in 2018 accounted for a total of 2,413 jobs, more than $154 million in wages, nearly $251 million in value-added revenues and more than $606 million in business revenues.

The contributions of visitor spending accounted for 986 jobs, a total of more than $35 million in wages, about $61 million in value-added revenues and about $104 million in business revenues.

Combining on-airport activities and visitor spending, the contributions of the Grand Junction Regional Airport included 3,399 jobs, nearly $190 million in wages and more than $312 million in value-added revenues. Business revenues totaled nearly $711 million.

Padalecki said the study takes into account all of the activities related to the airport that contribute to the economy, not just commercial air traffic. “They did a great job with what is the impact of the airport.”

Padalecki said that includes the contributions of West Star Aviation, a company that provides a variety of repair and maintenance services at the airport. That also includes the contributions of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management fire and aviation management unit as well as general aviation, she said.

The latest study also takes into account some of the construction that’s occurred at the airport, Padalecki said, but not all of it.

Construction has included renovations at the terminal, including roof repairs; upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; and new lighting and escalators. New flooring also will be installed.

Meanwhile, work proceeds on a project to construct a new runway north of the existing runway.

Once the new runway is completed, the existing runway will be converted into a taxiway. Shifting the runway north will open additional room for hangars, an expanded terminal and other facilities, she said.

The runway work is scheduled for completion in 2026. At an estimated cost of $150 million, the project will rank among the largest in Grand Valley history, she said.

That project and others will contribute to what Padalecki said is the growing economic contributions of the airport.

The airport also contributes to the economy in ways that are more difficult to measure, she said.

Commercial airlines offer nonstop service between Grand Junction Regional Airport and seven destinations with seasonal service to two more destinations. Those flights in turn offer connections to air service around the world, she said. Many companies also use private aircraft for travel. That kind of connectivity plays a role in promoting economic growth, Padalecki said.