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Charleston Business

S.C. Airports Have $16.3 Billion Impact

Feb 26, 2018 08:46AM ● By Emily Stevenson
The South Carolina Aeronautics Commission (SCAC) released an Economic Impact Report showing that airports are significant contributors to both the state economy and the local economies.

“We believe this study strongly supports the important contribution that airports make to our economy,” stated SCAC Executive Director James Stephens. “Overall, the 57 airports in our system contribute $16.3 billion in annual economic activity and support, in some way, almost 123,000 jobs.

South Carolina has an extensive system of public airports with 6 commercial airports and 51 general aviation airports to ensure the needs of commerce are met across the state. The study was commissioned by SCAC to assess airport roles and measure the annual economic impact provided by these airports, both of which will help to ensure the public and all elected officials understand the importance of each local airport and the role it plays in the local economy.

The SCAC research analyzed five economic activity centers for each airport including economic activity generated by general aviation visitor spending, commercial aviation visitor spending, capital improvement spending, airport tenants, and airport management. 

The Airport System in South Carolina supports an estimated 122,759 jobs with a $4.8 billion total payroll. Spending at and through the airport system is estimated at $11.5 billion bringing the total economic impact of the South Carolina Airport System to $16.3 billion annually.  Of the $16.3 billion, $657 million is attributable to tax revenues received through airport employees, tenants, capital investments made at airports, and visitors that come to South Carolina on commercial and general aviation aircraft.

Also released was a Statewide Aviation System Plan which evaluated publicly owned, public use airports in South Carolina.  This “Plan” was begun by completing an Inventory of the airports, their facilities, and the associated infrastructure.  Secondarily, forecasts were developed for operations at each airport.  Third, the individual airports and statewide system were evaluated to determine airport adequacies, deficiencies and redundancies through performance measures identified by the SCAC.  Fourth, airport roles were considered based on airport facilities, activity, services, and market characteristics.  Fifth, each airport was compared to facility objectives for their associated airport role, and the desire to have the respective airports meet greater roles in the future.  Finally, the SCAC ended up with a Statewide Aviation System Plan that summarizes the needs and recommendations, and the “Plan” identified an overall need of $768 million. 

Recommendations were made to enhance airport standards, enabling airports to serve customers and users better, and to enable growth potential within the statewide airport system.  Among the recommendations, some airports were asked to consider repaving runways or taxiways that were in disrepair, extending a runway to allow for larger corporate jet landings, adding infrastructure needed to sell a variety of fuels to be able to serve different aircraft, or adding a weather reporting system that pilots can use to get an update on that airport's current conditions like fog, wind etc.  This report also looked at historical and current airport funding sources, and determined that there was a huge gap between funding and the above mentioned airport needs and recommendations. 

This gap could be reduced if Senate Bill 792 and/or House Bill 4700, that are currently being considered in Columbia, passes.  The additional funding that is being requested through these bills is generated exclusively by S.C. airports through taxes on aviation operators, and the passage of a bill would enable aviation taxes to go back to meet aviation needs.

SCAC's Mission: Fostering air and economic development by overseeing the safety and development of the state's public use airports, by providing safe and reliable air transportation for state government and business prospects; and by providing aviation education opportunities.