Alaska airports help drive economy

Alaska airports are key drivers of the state’s economy and an area for growth.

A new report looks at the economics and community importance of 12 airports around the state. Conducted by Northern Economics, it shows Alaska’s aviation industry supplies 47,000 jobs, and pumps $3.5 billion into the state’s economy.

Eighty-two percent of all Alaska communities are accessible only by air.

Deputy Commissioner of Aviation Steve Hatter says Alaska is a major stopover for international air carriers. Anchorage is among the world’s busiest cargo airports and Fairbanks is in the top 100. At 9 and a-half hours from 90 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, Hatter says Alaska is well-positioned as a refueling stop.

“It’s really an amazing strategic reality and we want to take advantage of that,” Hatter says. “The fact we have such a significant cargo through-put operation in our system, speaks to the strategic location. So it’s sort of the perfect stop for balancing payload versus fuel.”

Hatter says major facility upgrades at Fairbanks and Anchorage airports allow for new growth, beyond re-fueling.

“Take advantage of those cargo transfer rights we have here in Alaska to get them to do other things besides just get cash, (such as) transfer to other carriers, other partners,” he says. “Multiplication-wise, things happen here from a business perspective. We think there’s lots of opportunity for growth there.”

The Northern Economics study looks at the number of direct and indirect jobs attributable to Alaska aviation as well as the value of passenger, freight, and mail moving through the 12 airports.

Fairbanks International is Alaska’s second busiest airport. It’s a hub for more than 50 communities in Interior and Northern Alaska that rely upon air freight, mail, and commuter services. The airport is also an economic engine with one in 20 jobs attributed to the airport.

According to the study, the Juneau International Airport provided a total of 1,240 direct and indirect jobs in 2009.

Juneau is a Southeast regional hub and makes a significant contribution to the Lower 48 economy as well. The report indicates that Seattle’s role as the largest “first order” recipient of cargo reflects Juneau’s role in shipping out perishable seafood goods.

Bethel Airport is the state’s second busiest cargo airport serving 56 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The report says one in 14 jobs is attributed to the Bethel airport.

Economic and Community Attributions of Selected Alaska Airports can be found at alaskaasp.com.

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