Illinois DOT Study Details Economic Contributions of Airports

A study issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation in December 2021 notes that airports play a vital role in the state’s economy, reinforcing the importance of aviation on the state’s multimodal transportation system to promote mobility, supply chain movement, job creation and local quality of life.

[Above photo by the Illinois DOT]

That report – entitled the 2020 Illinois Aviation Economic Impact Analysis – found that of the $95.5 billion contributed to the Illinois economy by airports in 2019, $21.1 billion came from visitor spending, $35.9 billion related to the shipment of cargo and $38.4 billion resulted from direct impacts, including $32.5 billion in income to help support 492,768 jobs.

The report analyzed 85 public-use airport facilities – 81 public and four private airports – and measured the economic impact at each individual airport, as well as within each Illinois DOT region and at the statewide level.

Omer Osman

“Aviation is a pillar of our state. Its importance to our economy cannot be overstated,” said Illinois DOT Secretary Omer Osman in a statement. “Illinois airports serve as a gateway to the economy through passenger, cargo and general aviation services, as well as employment opportunities. [Illinois DOT] is committed to strengthening our aviation system to better connect Illinois to national and international economies far and wide.”

The agency expects to release the first Illinois Aviation System Plan in more than two decades in 2022 – a plan that will identify short- and long-term needs of individual airports and the aviation system as a whole, with the goal of continuing to support economies throughout the state, improve quality of life and boost mobility.

Photo by the Illinois DOT

Illinois DOT issued this study on the heels of a $94 million funding award by Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) to support 96 public airport projects statewide. That $94 million award – issued on December 1, 2021 – unlocks $11.5 million in local contributions for a combined investment of $105 million, the governor said in a statement.

“Crucially, these dollars are going first and foremost to projects that might not otherwise be eligible for the full federal funding that they need to finish,” he added. “We want our airports throughout the state to be the best in the nation, and these airport grants are making a real difference. Every community deserves prosperity, safety, resiliency, and opportunity – and that’s what this program seeks to advance.”

Several state department of transportation studies – including ones from GeorgiaWyoming, and Alaska – show that airports function as significant “economic engines” as well as key mobility hubs.

Yet airports are also suffering long-term fiscal losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A report by the trade association Airports Council International–North America indicates U.S. airports would lose at least $17 billion between April 2021 and March 2022 due of the prolonged decline in commercial aviation traffic resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those losses are in addition to the $23 billion U.S. airports reportedly lost between March 2020 and March 2021, the group added.

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