County's airports add $18.6 billion, 241,000 jobs to economy, according to study
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County's five airports contributed $18.6 billion to local businesses and led to 241,021 jobs last year, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Aviation.
The study was conducted by Pennsylvania-based Martin Associates. The results were based on 448 telephone interviews with airport tenants, Census data, county data and a survey of 500 passengers.
The $18.6 billion comes from airline revenue, businesses at the airport and spending by airport employees.
"Businesses in South Florida, whether on the airport or off the airport, generate $19 billion in revenue per year as a result of airport activity," said Miguel Southwell, assistant director of business development at Miami International Airport. "Given the conservative nature of the study, I was surprised by the almost-$19 billion impact."
Although a study hadn't been done for years, officials assumed the Miami airport generated $13 billion annually in business revenue, said airport spokesman Marc Henderson.
The airport was responsible for 37,425 airport-related jobs and 95,044 visitor-industry jobs. Of the airport jobs, 73.6% came from the commercial airline industry and airport services, 11.8% from freight transportation, 7.8% from construction and consulting and 6.8% from ground transportation.
The study said $7.8 billion in wages were paid as a result of the airport, leading to $2.9 billion in local purchases.
The study said that of 15.1 million passengers arriving in Miami last year, 48% came from international sites and about half flew into Miami to visit. Of the international passengers, 16% came to Miami on business and 84% for pleasure.
Thirty-eight percent of domestic passengers came through the airport to take a cruise.
Travelers spent $4.7 billion on retail purchases, $1.45 billion on hotels and $1.42 billion on dining. Mr. Henderson said the average international visitor spends $230 a day on retail purchases.
Visitor spending was responsible for 95,044 jobs - most in restaurants.
A study of Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta found that it served 77 million passengers last year - more than twice as many as Miami - but its local economic impact was about the same as Miami's.
The study will help airport officials lobby the federal government on funding and security issues, Mr. Southwell said. "Now you have ammunition to go to the federal government and say this is the impact this policy will have. We have regulations that are passed time to time that impact our ability to attract certain passengers.
"We have to look at the impact and determine if we have something powerful enough to warrant Congress altering their decisions."
For example, Mr. Southwell said, one airline is concerned that its international passengers will not have new barcode passports by the Oct. 1 deadline. He said the airport could use the study to persuade Congress to review the deadline because a decline in international travel could have an impact on the economy.
"We could not only measure the impact on airport revenue but on business revenue in Miami," Mr. Southwell said.
The study also will help the airport make decisions about adding or removing flights or airlines, he said. "We do not have any non-stop service to Asia. I have to determine whether it is worth our while to go after service in Asia.
"You would use this study on this basis to determine job impact and revenue impact," Mr. Southwell said.