News

Airport Additions Bring Jobs to Yuma

Even as the military has been investing millions of dollars at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in preparation for the F-35, there’s been a bustle of activity across the runway on the civilian side of the airport. Since 2007, more than $35 million in both public and private money has been invested in Yuma International Airport’s infrastructure, observed Rob Ingold, president of the Yuma County Airport Authority. Those dollars not only have fueled badly needed construction jobs, they’ve created hundreds of permanent jobs and represent an investment in the future of the community that promises to deliver economic development and job creation well into the future. “Every single investment made retains exiting jobs or creates new ones,” said Craig Williams, airport manager. “And the good news is that it’s not slowing down. Everyone at the airport is running full speed to keep up with the growth.” Much of the focus has been on developing the west side of the airport into the Defense Contractors Complex to provide facilities for both short- and long-term leasing by defense contractors working at MCAS and Yuma Proving Ground — leases that could lead to permanent locations in the community by the contractors. “Just the name Defense Contractors Complex lends itself to opportunities for development,” said Julie Engel, president and CEO of Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation. She commended the airport board for its long-range vision to create this asset for the community. “To some degree we’re already seeing the benefits,” Engel said. “But what’s to come is tremendous. We’re at the cusp of what it will bring to the community.” For example, before the Pappy Boyington Hangar at the DCC was even completed in 2009, it was leased by NASA as a base for its parachute testing at YPG. Engel is hopeful the same will be the case for the $5 million Aviation Industrial Center to be built next door, a project the airport board launched 1-1/2 weeks ago with a ceremonial groundbreaking. She said she’s already been fielding inquiries for the project, which will have two aircraft maintenance hangars with shared office space. Another project is the $2 million in public and private money to develop the Million Air Pilot Center. The airport also continues to pursue improvements to taxiways and aprons to benefit both commercial and general aviation aircraft. In addition, the airport has obtained outside investment for several projects. This includes almost $10 million of federal investment in the new Customs and Border Protection Aviation Complex, $2 million for the new FedEx facility, and $2 million in the Amelia Earhart hangar that started construction last August. The good news is that the economic impact of that investment is much greater than its sum total, Ingold said. Airport jobs have a multiplier effect of 1.8. In other words, for every 10 jobs directly created by the airport, an additional eight jobs are created in the community. Therefore, the 250 direct positions created by airport activity so far means 467 new jobs for the community. The payroll of those jobs yields an annual economic impact of more than $23.6 million, Ingold said. The payroll is spent by families for food, clothing, housing and other needs, leading to an additional $1 million in local sales tax revenue and more than $1 million in local property tax revenue. At the state level, that spending resulted in $2 million in sales tax revenue and $624,262 in payroll tax. But benefits to the community reach beyond the direct impact of the investments at the airport, Engel noted. They also create a greater demand for commercial air service. That more robust service becomes a marketing tool for GYEDC’s other job creation efforts, such as trying to attract manufacturing, she said. And the improvements to the general aviation side of the airport are invaluable for corporate flyers, among them the produce companies that frequently fly into Yuma during the winter fresh vegetable season. “It’s critical to other development efforts,” Engel said. “People need and want transportation.” City Administrator Greg Wilkinson said the city believes the Airport Authority “is one of the gems we have in the community to attract new high-paying jobs in addition to what they have already accomplished. The authority has been able to capitalize on the introduction of the F-35 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and provide secure locations for contractors to work to support the Marines.” He continued: “We are actively working with the airport to market and get information to prospective companies about what they have to offer. Looking down the road at the airport potential and ability to expand as they are doing in building their new hangar in the Defense Contractor Complex, we believe this is one of the primary areas that Yuma can grow jobs and grow high-paying jobs.” Joyce Lobeck can be reached at jlobeck@yumasun.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.

Joyce Lobeck
Staff Writer
The Sun
Nov. 24th, 2012