Investing in Ohio's Airports
Ohio—the birthplace of aviation—was due for a new statewide plan for its airports. It had been a decade since the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Office of Aviation had introduced one. The office oversees airport planning and engineering and administers funding to local airport owners in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). ODOT set out to measure the performance of its then-104 airports and quantify the impact of each on the state economy. The results would give the department the insights necessary to assess facility improvement needs and to make funding decisions. ODOT hired CDM Smith to lead this analysis and deliver the Ohio Airports Focus Study.
The study included two primary components: a system plan and an economic impact analysis. The system plan analyzed five categories of Ohio airports based on their runway length, aviation fuel sold, instrument approach procedures and the type of aircraft maintenance available. CDM Smith’s team evaluated each airport for how it performed against pre-established benchmarks and made recommendations for those that did not meet all their performance goals. The system plan also examined gaps and overlaps in the coverage of the overall system, as well as by specific facilities and services.
The economic impact analysis assessed each airport’s contribution to the state’s economy on an annual basis, from commercial airports that stimulate billions in spending to smaller airports that provide jobs and services at the local level. This part of the study included several supplemental analyses, including an estimate of aviation’s contribution to the Ohio tax base. CDM Smith's team determined that Ohio’s airports generate about $30 million annually in state tax revenue from aviation-related fuel sales and services. However, at the time of the study, less than $1 million in state funding was allocated back to the state’s airports, presenting an opportunity to increase support for municipal and county airport operators.
Case studies supplemented the economic analysis, providing evidence for how aviation helped Ohio’s citizens and vice versa. CDM Smith’s team highlighted, for instance, the relationship between Ohio’s airports and universities; 10 local colleges had aviation education programs, supporting industry advancement in both the state and country. At the time of the study, hydraulic fracturing was also taking off in the Marcellus Shale. CDM Smith’s planners made the connection between having efficient airport facilities and accommodating small business jets traveling to Ohio from the Gulf Coast.
The study also included a compliance analysis, which investigated the degree to which airports were meeting requirements for runway safety areas and protection zones. The CDM Smith team provided cost estimates for bringing all non-compliant airports into full compliance and for runway pavement maintenance over 20 years.
Finally, stakeholder and public outreach played a key role in the study’s success. CDM Smith’s team met with every airport owner and local economic development agencies and businesses to understand their needs. They held an extensive series of public involvement meetings at locations around the state and issued technical reports to the public to communicate the study’s progression and recommendations.
CDM Smith’s planners and economists produced stand-alone summary brochures for each airport, describing their individual economic output, as well as an executive summary covering the contribution of all 104 facilities. The study’s results were instrumental in ODOT’s Office of Aviation receiving an additional $6 million annually in state funding for aviation maintenance and capital projects.