Study: NASA airport could generate $45 million for local economy

PERKINS TWP. Although the final NASA Plum Brook runwayand airport feasibility study has not been rel
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

Although the final NASA Plum Brook runwayand airport feasibility study has not been released, preliminary data already show creating an airstrip or airport would pump huge amounts of money into Huron and Erie counties.

Adding 100 NASA workers would also generate about $45 million in local economic output, $20 million in compensation for workers, $3 million for federal taxes and $1.5 million for state and local taxes, Carroll said.

By comparison, adding 175 NASA jobs would lead to about 929 local jobs, $88 million to the local economy, $40 million in worker compensation, $7 million in federal taxes and $3 million in state and local taxes.

If the number of new NASA jobs was 325, it would support the creation of 1,776 local jobs, $167 million in total economic output, $76 million in worker compensation, $13 million in federal taxes and $5 million in state and local taxes.

Carroll said the final report will outline the job creation in more detail, providing an industry-by-industry breakdown.

For instance, he said, creating 325 NASA jobs creates about 73 jobs for food and beverage services, 25 jobs in maintenance repair and construction, and 24 workers to hospitals.

Carroll and other consultants who put the study together presented some of their findings to Norwalk and Huron County officials last week.

Although Erie County commissioners supported the study -- essential because NASA Plum Brook is located in Erie County -- no county officials attended Friday's presentation.

Calls made to officials weren't immediately returned.

The aim of the grant-funded study was to determine the economic benefits of a regional airport or airstrip at NASA and the multi-county collaborative advantages it could have.

The runway would be used by aerospace companies to ship equipment to NASA Plum Brook for scientific testing. The airport could be used to replace those found in Erie and Huron counties.

It is unclear what, if any, influence the study could have on the project becoming a reality.

Huron County commissioner Larry Silcox said since the beginning that NASA officials have made plain their position they cannot afford the project.

But Silcox said other federal dollars -- like stimulus funding -- could provide financing.

Officials are exploring options.

Another question hanging over the project has to do with governing issues regarding who would be in charge of operating the airport.

Officials asked consultants to study the issue and show how a multi-county airport authority could work.

Stephen Quilty, an accredited airport expert with SMQ Airport Services, said after extensive research he determined the best approach would be for NASA to take care of building and operating the airport.

He said were the agency to build it on their own property and use it for solely governmental ends, it wouldn't affect the operations and funding of any local airports, which rely on federal dollars.

But Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch said she felt Quilty's recommendation did not adequately consider the business advantages of having a large public airport. She said there could be many local manufacturers in need of more effective methods of shipping and transporting their products.

"If it's NASA only, outside manufacturers will not have access to it," Lesch said. "Even though there's a lot of good data, we don't see anything from current manufacturers about the impact of having access to that kind of transportation. ... Our manufacturers don't use our current airport. It's not big enough. They go to Cleveland, but if they had access to (a large) airport, could they expand in new ways?"

But consultants said the 10 or so manufacturers they spoke with gave no indication they would use an airport for business purposes.

Lesch said she wants to see further study of the subject.

The final report should be released in about two weeks.