The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport had a $128.7 million impact on the local economy and directly or indirectly supported 1,267 jobs in 2010, according to a recent statewide, competitive analysis of Virginia’s aviation industry.
The airport ranked seventh out of Virginia’s nine airports with commercial air service. Washington Dulles International Airport ranked first with an estimated $10.1 billion impact and nearly 97,000 jobs tied to the airport, while Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave ranked at the bottom, with a $26.2 million economic impact and 252 airport or airport-supported jobs.
Statewide, the report says, aviation supports $28.8 billion in economic activity and more than 259,000 jobs.
The local airport is run by a politically independent entity, the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport Authority, which was created by the General Assembly in 1984. The airport had $4.07 million in revenue and $3.5 million in expenses in 2010, according to a recent financial report.
According to that report, 40 percent of the airport’s revenue came from parking, 22 percent from rental cars and 21 percent from the airlines. Revenue from other terminal and airfield operations made up the rest.
The analysis was commissioned by the Virginia Department of Aviation, conducted by the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University and released last week. The purpose was to examine Virginia’s tax policies, incentives and development efforts related to aviation compared with 13 other states.
Randall Burdette is director of the Virginia Department of Aviation.
“The [department] will be reviewing the study to determine the appropriate courses of action in each of the areas to continue improving Virginia’s competitive position and the service our airports provide our communities,” he said by email.
A closer look
According to the 61-page analysis, Virginia’s 66 public use airports have several advantages compared with other states in the region. They include the presence of advanced weather reporting systems, good access to general aviation and stable, diversified funding sources for the aviation system.
However, the state lags behind in land use protection for airports, the availability of commercial hangars and fuel, and the percentage of airports that have runways that are at least 5,000 feet long.
CHO’s single runway is 6,001 feet and a project is ongoing to extend it by another 800 feet. The expansion will allow larger, more heavily loaded planes to take off and land, thereby increasing the airport’s passenger capacity.
Although Charlottesville’s airport, a regional non-hub, isn’t in the same category as large international airports such as Dulles and Reagan National, CHO still has distinct advantages over other similarly sized airports in Virginia and across the United States, said Barbara Hutchinson, the airport’s executive director. They include easy access to the airport by ground and uncluttered airspace.
And thanks to the presence of the University of Virginia, the National Ground Intelligence Center and other large employers and businesses that need easy access to air transportation, “We have a competitive advantage compared to similarly sized communities,” Hutchinson said.
“When we take a look at what’s happening to the airport, we’re far more stable than some similar sized airports around the country,” she added.
In Charlottesville, although only about 250 jobs are at the airport proper, Hutchinson said the rest are directly related to the fact that the airport is here.
In a statement accompanying the release of the analysis, Gov. Bob McDonnell pledged his support for the state’s aviation industry.
“As indicated in the recommendations, we are dedicated to maintaining Virginia as a leader in the development of aviation infrastructure and advancing new aviation technologies,” the governor said. “By continuing adequate funding sources for airport improvements and promoting the economic advantages that our system provides, the commonwealth will be better positioned to become a test bed for other maturing technologies.”
However, Jeff Caldwell, the governor’s spokesman, said there are currently no bills before the General Assembly that specifically deal with aviation funding.
Burdette explained that’s because the study was just released and the legislature has only been in session for about a month.
“Our airports are economic engines, technology magnets and tourism gateways,” Burdette said. “We will continue to work to ensure that Virginia airports provide the best service possible for the citizens of the commonwealth.”
The economic and job impact in 2010 of Virginia’s nine airports with commercial service, according to a report from the Virginia Department of Aviation:
Washington Dulles International: $10.1 billion, 96,980 jobs
Ronald Reagan Washington National: $7.3 billion, 82,675 jobs
Richmond International: $1.08 billion, 10,910 jobs
Norfolk International: $1.07 billion, 10,269 jobs
Newport News-Williamsburg International: $373.6 million, 3,382 jobs
Roanoke Regional: $216.1 million, 2,189 jobs
Charlottesville Albemarle: $128.7 million, 1,267 jobs
Lynchburg Regional: $109.2 million, 911 jobs
Shenandoah Valley Regional: $26.2 million, 252 jobs