Study shows value of local airport, Delta County Airport

July 11, 2018

Delta County Airport, Escanaba, Michigan
(photo courtesy of redlegsfan21: Flickr Commons)

A recent statewide study found the Delta County Airport has had a significant financial impact on both the local area and the state of Michigan. Stephanie Ward, vice president and manager of planning for consulting firm Mead & Hunt, gave a presentation on the study during a meeting of the Delta County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Ward said the study was based on information collected in 2016.

“The FAA requires that each state that gets federal funding have a system plan that addresses all of its airports within the state,” she said. Last year, Michigan fulfilled this requirement by completing the Michigan Aviation System Plan (MASP).

According to Ward, the MASP divides airports into three different “tiers” — Tier One airports typically handle commercial air traffic, Tier Two airports are general aviation airports, and all other airports are included in Tier Three. Delta County Airport has an overall classification of Tier One.

Airports are also given tier classifications in a number of subcategories, each of which corresponds to a different overall goal.

“Delta County hits a number of these as being a Tier One, so it really demonstrates the value and importance of the airport,” Ward said.

Ward said one of the subcategories the Delta County Airport was given a classification of Tier One for corresponded to the goal of “serve significant population centers.”

“You have a population center here, so we want to make sure that we have an airport within a 30-minute drive time of that population center,” she said.

The airport was also included in Tier One for the subcategories “serve significant business centers,” “provide adequate land area coverage,” and “inclusion in NPIAS (National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems).” It was included in Tier Two for “preserve regional capacity” and in Tier Three for “serve significant tourism/convention centers,” “provide access to the general population,” and “serve seasonally isolated areas.”

Based on the overall design of its facility, Ward said the Delta County Airport was given a reference code of C-II in the MASP. Airports with this code should have a runway more than 5,000 feet long and a precision instrument approach, both of which Delta County Airport already has.

“You’re doing very well in terms of meeting the goals for that,” she said.

Ward went on to discuss what was referred to as the “airport report card,” which listed several different goals for airports with a C-II reference code. She said the Delta County Airport has met all of the goals included in this section.

“The really exciting thing for that is the fact that you have no red in the upper table,” she said. While the airport was listed as being below its goal for the condition of its runway pavement when the study was performed, a project which was recently completed has allowed the airport to fulfill this goal.

Ward also looked at the community benefits assessment, which listed the airport’s financial impact on both the local and state levels. She said this assessment was based on data provided by the airport, and that it can change to reflect changes made there.

“It can be updated at any given point,” she said.

According to the MASP, the airport created 190 jobs, $4,906,000 in income, and $15,984,000 in output locally in 2016. However, this is not where its economic impact ended.

“Some of those dollars leave Delta County, obviously,” Ward said. Because of this, the airport was listed as creating 225 jobs, $5,564,000 in income, and $20,903,000 in output across Michigan.

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