YVRA’s impact worth millions | SteamboatToday.com

YVRA’s impact worth millions

Managers happy to see economic benefit

Blythe Terrell

— Results from an economic impact study put wind beneath the wings of managers at Routt County’s two airports.

According to the study, Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden produces an annual, total economic impact of $412 million, and Steamboat Springs Airport’s annual, total impact is $11.7 million.

“Until you look through and see what their methodology was, some of their numbers are hard to accept,” YVRA Manager Dave Ruppel said. “I think what they’re emphasizing there is that you can’t look at something like an airport separated from the community it’s in.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics released the 2008 Colorado Airports Economic Impact Study last month. It showed that air travelers are pouring about $32.2 billion into Colorado’s economy annually, up from $23.5 billion in 2003.

“There are some pretty big numbers coming into the valley in terms of revenue,” Ruppel said about the local figures. “To me, that’s very encouraging. It shows dollars are being used and reused throughout the valley.”

Steamboat Springs Airport Manager Mel Baker said the study helped show the effectiveness of the Yampa Valley’s two-airport system. The Steamboat airport handles most of the general, or noncommercial, aviation, and YVRA handles commercial and some general aviation.

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“As far as a position for the future, we’re in a good spot,” Baker said. “The community’s poised to really capitalize on any growth within the aviation industry with the two-airport system and any economic benefits from that.”

Baker said the study also helped show that the Steamboat airport is a solid revenue-providing service. He said 117 general aviation aircraft were registered at the airport, compared with 11 at YVRA.

Baker said officials at the Steamboat airport would spend the next few months putting together a business plan. The city provides some subsidies for the airport, which initially handled commercial flights.

“We want to approach developing this general-aviation airport with an aviation business mentality,” Baker said. “That is kind of our goal right now, to be as financially self-sustaining as possible.”

The state study, which comes out every five years, looks at direct and indirect financial impacts of airports across the state. Areas examined include airport employee payroll, sales taxes collected from travelers and money that people spend after they arrive.

“There’s people who utilize the airport for business, people who utilize the airport for recreation, people who utilize it for training. : It all generates dollars,” Baker said. “It’s a way of networking our community with other communities.”

City studies

In April, the Steamboat Springs City Council heard reports about two city-commissioned studies of Steamboat Springs Airport. Matrix Design Group, asked to examine all possible future uses – or closure – of the airport, estimated the airport generates $1.2 million in payroll and $3.8 million in total output for the local economy.

Costs of closing and redeveloping the 276-acre airport site would outweigh its land value by $6.7 million to $9.5 million, Matrix found in its $100,000 study.

Airport opponents often criticize the city’s existing subsidy of Steamboat Springs Airport. Matrix said the subsidy averaged $242,000 a year from 2001 to 2006, but it predicted the airport will become a break-even operation for the city once the bonds for its terminal building are paid off in 2009.

The city asked Armstrong Consultants to conduct a master plan study at a cost of $216,000, all but $33,000 of which was paid for by federal and state grants. The Armstrong study identified $40 million in recommended improvements at the airport throughout the next 20 years, with all but $1 million covered by federal and state grants.

Regarding YVRA, Ruppel said he was glad to have figures from last month’s state study to present to community organizations, government bodies and economic development groups.

The report helps them “realize that’s money that’s coming right back into Craig and right back into Hayden and right back into Steamboat,” Ruppel said. “Those are numbers they can get their arms around.”

Local airports’ annual figures

Commercial airports with largest economic impact

1. Denver

2. Colorado Springs

3. Aspen

4. Eagle County

5. Grand Junction

6. Durango

7. Yampa Valley Regional Airport

8. Montrose

9. Gunnison

10. Pueblo

11. Telluride

12. Loveland

13. Alamosa

14. Cortez

YVRA (annual figures)

– Total contribution to state tax base: $19.7 million

– Direct and indirect employees: 4,922

– Sales-tax revenue: $13 million

– Amount drawn from commercial visitors: $152.5 million

Steamboat Springs Airport (annual figures)

– Total contribution to state tax base: $526,000

– Direct and indirect employees: 116

– Sales-tax revenue: $500,000

Source: Colorado Airports Economic Impact Study, by the Colorado Department of Transportation