Airport’s economic impact on county nearly $100 million

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — City council members in Champaign will hear about the economic impacts of adding a flight to Dulles International Airport from Savoy-based Willard Airport.

In a study session meeting Tuesday evening — which won’t be followed by any action — airport representatives will present both a general update on the financial growth of Willard and the potential impact of adding a flight to Dulles.

That update comes after the release of a report that analyzed the airport’s financial contribution to Champaign County is $99.75 million — up 34 percent since 2016.

The report was a s sponsored effort between several community partners, including the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, City of Champaign, Parkland College, Flightstar and the airport itself, among others. It analyzed “existing air service, possible new air service and airport non-airline…economic activity,” according to a press release.

“The University of Illinois-Willard Airport continues to be a vital asset to the local economy, responsible for over 750 jobs and $99.75M of impact in Champaign County,” Tim Bannon, Executive Director of Willard Airport said in the release. “We are happy to see a 34% increase to our annual impact to Champaign County, a true indicator that the airport is contributing to our local economy at a high level. We are constantly working to improve the customer experience, while prioritizing air service development.”

Also up from 2016 are airport visitors (122 per day), local jobs (751 full-time positions) and taxes ($14 million — a 39 percent increase).

The study also noted that Willard saw 109,878 enplanements in 2018, up 9.73 percent from 2017.

“We were happy to lead this study in partnership with Willard Airport and community organizations to showcase the incredible impact Willard Airport has on our region,” Carly McCrory, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation said in the release. “The airport staff and Executive Committee have worked diligently in recent years to expand airline service and improve on-site experiences, and we’re happy to see such a positive increase in numbers since our last report in 2016, especially as it relates to overall impact, full-time jobs, and total enplanements.”

The report projects 212,000 airline passengers will use Willard Airport in 2019.

Officials are also considering a new addition to the airport of twice-daily, regional jet flights to Washington Dulles International Airport. Economically, officials estimate an impact of $8.3 million in output and the creation of around 89 new jobs if the flight option were added.

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