Study puts St. Pete-Clearwater airport’s economic impact at $1 billion

Published February 2
Updated February 5

CLEARWATER — The runways at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport are busier than ever, and a new study says those flights translate into thousands of local jobs and more than $1 billion a year in economic impact.

Volaire Aviation Consulting did the study late last year for the airport, which is a division of Pinellas County government.

The last time this kind of study was done for the airport was 2014 by the Florida Department of Transportation. That study calculated an economic impact of $752 million a year, but the airport has seen five consecutive years of double-digit growth, with the number of cities served nearly doubling.

"There has been a significant amount of growth that we have seen in the last five years," Airport Director Thomas Jewsbury said Friday. "We knew that the impact to the region had increased since the last time the impacts were studied."

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The report focused on economic activity that depends on runway operations, including both airline operations and general aviation. Not considered was the airport’s involvement in the Airport Business Park and other real estate development or leasing ventures.

In all, consultants traced 7,020 full-time equivalent jobs to the airport, but said they come about in one of three ways.

First, there’s direct spending and jobs at the airport. Then there’s indirect economic activity that happens off-site as a result of airport jobs and spending. Finally, one more step removed, there’s induced economic impact generated by people and jobs that benefit from the indirect impacts.

If the airport were considered as a single employer, it would be the 19th largest in Pinellas County.

Instead, it’s home to many employers: the airport administration itself, Allegiant and two smaller airlines, general and corporate aviation companies, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, an Army Reserve helicopter unit, the Federal Aviation Administration’s control tower and the Pinellas County sheriff’s flight unit.

Still, four-fifths of the airport’s impact can be traced to airline service, which is dominated by Allegiant and its 54 nonstop destinations.

The economic impact study, the first the airport has commissioned itself, cost $24,900, and Jewsbury does not expect it to sit on the shelf. Late last year the airport launched an 18-month effort to update its master plan for the next 20 years , and Jewsbury said the study’s findings could help the airport compete for state and federal grants to pay for improvement projects.

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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