Airport Impact Study Raises Questions
A recent study published by the state claims that Worcester Regional Airport,
both direct and indirect benefits, contributes more than $50 million in
economic benefit to the region, supports more than 400 jobs and a
payroll of more than $13 million. But not everyone is buying that.
study, which the state hired South Carolina study group Wilbur Smith
& Associates to produce, uses what's known as a "multiplier effect"
to determine the airport's impact on the local economy.
to state figures, the airport directly employs about 80 workers,
including baggage handlers, rental car workers, staff and security
administration personnel. There are another 23 full-time workers in
Worcester from MassPort, which, along with operating Worcester Airport,
also runs Boston's Logan Airport and Hanscom Airport in Bedford.
theory behind the multiplier effect is that the wages those employees
earn are recirculated in the local economy, creating indirect economic
impacts. For example, an employee working at Worcester Airport spends
his or her salary at a local grocery store, which benefits the regional
The study shows that those 103 jobs go on to support 418 jobs in the region.
Matheson, an associate professor of economics at the College of The
Holy Cross in Worcester, said the multiplier effect the study uses
appears rather large. Normally, multiplier effects are in the two to
two-and-a-half range, he said. Having a multiplier of about four "seems
high," Matheson said.
Various factors, such as how large a
geographic area the benefits of the airport are spread over, can
influence how large a multiplier effect there will be, Matheson said.
transportation department officials involved in the study said the
report uses a Federal Aviation Administration-approved multiplier
effect. The study says that, "for every $100 spent on aviation-related
businesses, an additional multiplier of $56 is created within
Others question the impact of the study as well.
think you really have to take these studies with a grain of salt," said
Worcester City Councilor William Eddy, who represents the Ward 5 area
where the airport is located, on the western side of the city.
Eddy said that despite any criticism of the study's methods, there have been positive trends at the airport in recent years.
in 2010, the city sold its control of the airport to MassPort. That
sale relieved the city of deficits related to airport operations. But
Eddy said there's an opportunity to attract businesses to the adjacent
airport industrial park that can utilize the airport's location to
"We're heading in the right direction with
Worcester Airport," Eddy said. Still, he admitted, "it's not going to
become Logan west" overnight.
officials defend the airport as an "economic engine for Central
Massachusetts and a strategic asset for the region," MassPort spokesman
Matthew Brelis wrote in an e-mail. He said as Logan Airport continues to
be crowded, regional airports such as Worcester's are "poised to see a
greater share of the region's economic growth in the future."
fact, he said ridership and the number of flights from Worcester have
increased in each of the past three years. The number of passengers has
risen from 46,007 in 2009 to 107,521 in 2011, while the number of
flights at the airport has jumped from 517 to 832.
and local officials admit that the airport gets nowhere near the use it
received in the 1990s and early 2000s when multiple carriers served the
Christopher Willenborg, administrator for the Massachusetts
Department of Transportation's Aeronautics division, said it's been a
tough past few years for all airports because of the economic situation.
"It's a very tough time to foster new business anywhere," he said.
with the airport's lone commercial carrier - South Carolina-based
Direct Air - said the low-cost airline is committed to the airport.
Direct Air flies to three Florida destinations now and will add its
seasonal service to South Carolina this spring and summer. In May, it
plans to pilot trips to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a six-week period.
goal is to increase frequency, add more destinations, and serve more
passengers," said Direct Air Managing Partner Ed Warneck. "The net
result will bring more jobs, direct spending, and economic impact to
Central Mass and the Worcester region."
Despite some who claim the
biggest impediment to the airport is the lack of an access road,
Warneck said weather issues and a shortage of marketing funds to promote
the airport are the single biggest issues holding it back.
officials say they've been investing in the airport. According to
MassPort, a $6 million runway reconstruction and resurfacing project was
completed in 2010, while last year more than $800,000 was spent on
terminal building improvements and security systems.
Click here to
read the executive summary of the state economic impact report
regarding Massachusetts airports. (Warning: This is a large PDF)