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Study puts economic impact of Colorado Springs Airport at $3.7 billion

By: WAYNE HEILMAN wayneh@gazette.com
October 10, 2013 Updated: October 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm
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The Colorado Springs Airport pumps nearly $3.7 billion a year into the local economy and is responsible for nearly 28,000 jobs, according to a study of Colorado's 76 airports.

But the study from the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, released Thursday, is based on 2012 data, and does not reflect the withdrawal of Frontier Airlines from Colorado Springs in April. Frontier accounted for nearly 19 percent of the airport's passenger traffic last year and its exit has reduced traffic 16.9 percent in the first seven months of the year.

Much of the economic impact from the airport comes from a longtime source: Peterson Air Force Base and contractors for the Air Force Space Command, which is a key component of the base. Peterson is located on land leased from the airport.

Based on the 2012 data, the local airport's economic impact was up 4.2 percent from the $3.54 billion calculated by a 2008 study. The studies were commissioned by the Division of Aeronautics, part of the state's Department of Transportation, which makes grants to the state's airports for pay for construction projects, produce long-range plans and buy equipment.

Direct comparisons can't be made between the two studies, however, because the authors of the 2012 report used a different economic model than the one used in the 2008 study. They also used a more conservative formula to estimate the indirect impact of airport, airline and other airport tenant employment, construction projects at airports and visitors who travel here by air, said Amy Ford, a department spokeswoman.

The study found that Colorado's 76 airports generate $36.7 billion in economic activity annually, or 13.4 percent of all economic activity in the state. That is up 14 percent from 2008, and is responsible for 265,700 jobs, or just over one out of every 10 civilian jobs in the state.

Nearly three-fourths of the statewide economic impact - $26.3 billion - and 71 percent of the jobs -188,338 - came from Denver International Airport, the nation's fifth-largest airport and a hub for Frontier, Southwest and United airlines.

"Airports and aviation are big business for Colorado," said Don Hunt, the department's executive director. "It is great to see that they are playing such an important role in their local communities."

The study also measured the economic impact of three other El Paso County airports:

- Meadow Lake Airport near Falcon, $10.1 million in economic impact and 130 jobs.

- Calhan Airport, $373,555 in economic impact and two jobs.

- Colorado Springs East Airport near Ellicott, $108,418 in economic impact and one job.

The study is available at the Division of Aeronautics website: www.coloradodot.info/programs/aeronautics

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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