Airports in Kansas support more than 47,000 jobs, generate $2.3 billion in payroll and have an annual economic impact of $10.4 billion, according to an economic impact study by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Department Secretary Deb Miller discussed the results of the $337,000 study at Topeka's Billard Airport on Wednesday. She also announced the recipients of $1.3 million in state grants to Kansas airports.
Miller said she was surprised by the amount of economic activity taking place at airports, including businesses located nearby.
"That's important for us to now where to best invest public and private resources," she said.
KDOT conducted the study to get a better fix on the economic impact of the state's eight commercial airports and 132 general aviation airports. Miller said the study substantiates what "an economic powerhouse aviation is."
Kansas enacted a 10-year, $8.2 billion comprehensive transportation package during the 2010 legislative session. The program includes making improvements to airport facilities across the state.
Miller's announcement came the day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback outlined his platform for encouraging more development in the Kansas aviation sector, including attracting more commercial space manufacturers.
The largest commercial airport in Kansas is in Wichita, home to numerous aviation manufacturers who have led to the city earning the moniker for decades as the "Air Capital of the World." The airport employs 22,313 people, amounting to a payroll of nearly $1.2 billion and economic output of more than $4.6 billion.
Miller noted that the Salina Municipal Airport was a good example of developing a site to accommodate aviation related firms, as well as other manufacturing. The airport was formerly Schilling Air Force Base and has one of the longest runways in the United States at 12,300 feet. It was used by adventurer Steve Fossett in 2005 for a solo flight around the world and is also home to the Kansas State University's College of Technology and Aviation.
Combined, Salina had 995 employees with a payroll of nearly $40 million and economic output of $146 million.
"I think the Salina model is phenomenal and what a lot of communities would like," Miller said. "I would like to see it replicated.
Lt. Gov. Troy Findley said while a lot of the focus is on airports, the impact of the industry has led to top rankings for Wichita as a center for manufacturing commercial and general aviation aircraft.
"Without aircraft manufacturing, aviation in Kansas wouldn't be what it is today and the Kansas economy would be drastically smaller," he said.
He said the focus on smaller, community airports links rural communities to national systems and the world economy and must continue to be developed.
Among those winning grants Wednesday was the city of Greensburg to conduct a feasibility study for construction of a general aviation airport. The city, which was nearly destroyed in May 2007 by a massive tornado, currently lacks an airport and residents or visitors must fly to Pratt or Coldwater for service, then drive to Greensburg.
Other projects approved were for improvements to runways and taxi areas, as well as communication and weather observation systems to better aid pilots.
Kansas will increase its grants to aviation in 2013 to $5 million from the current $3 million under a new transportation program. Miller said up until 1999, Kansas was one of the last states to make public investments in aviation projects.
Kansas Department of Transportation: http://www.ksdot.org