Survey determines ILM contributes $466 million to local economy; airport director says it’s more


A recent survey conducted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division determined the local economic impact of Wilmington International Airport is $466 million.

The survey found the state’s 72 airports are responsible for more than $23 billion in economic impact statewide.

But Wilmington International Airport Director Jon Rosborough said the airport’s economic impact to the community is much larger than what was depicted in the aviation survey.

The survey reviewed 72 airports in North Carolina—63 of which are general aviation airports and nine of which are commercial airports.

“In the study, they used a formula that they obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The data on ILM is not correct,” Rosborough said.

For one, the study is not done every year. Before the 2012 survey recently released by DOT officials, the last state aviation department study was done in 2006, when ILM was determined to account for $206 million in economic impact, Rosborough said.

In 2008, Rosborough enlisted the Institution of Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) Group out of N.C. State University to conduct a comprehensive economic impact survey for ILM.

ITRE’s in-depth survey, which included interviewing stakeholders and business leaders at PPD, Corning, GE Nuclear, Verizon Wireless and many other local businesses, determined ILM’s economic impact was $641,463,200, Rosborough said.

“It’s because we paid them to do a very in-depth analysis. Relating back to the most recent survey, they were unable to do that will all the commercial airports because it was a very taxing, laborious process. The FAA had a generic formula they used to determine the aviation impact on the overall economy of the United States,” Rosborough said.

Rosborough said the airport did not lose $200 million in economic impact over four years.

The DOT study determined the airport employed 610 people directly and 1,300 people indirectly—numbers which Rosborough said are also inaccurate. The 2008 study determined the airport employed 1,259 people directly and another 1,432 people indirectly. With induced or implied employment at 792, Rosborough estimates the airport’s economic contribution when it comes to employment at more than 3,400 jobs.

“ILM is a key economic engine to our region,” Rosborough said, adding that region goes beyond Wilmington. Rosborough said ILM serves eight and a half counties in the area.

“That still is a good, viable number,” Rosborough said of the $466 million figure in the state survey.

“We believe our economic impact is a lot more than is reflected in that study that just came out.”

Rosborough said he would consider soliciting another private survey, but he had no immediate plans to do so.

Another economic impact ILM has in the community is in economic development, job creation and industry relocation.

“One of the things you like to show when bringing business into the community—at least from my perspective—is good air service would certainly help the community, the Chamber [of Commerce] and Wilmington Business Development,” Rosborough said.