Aviation helps area economy soar

Super Bowl XLV’s economic impact on Dallas-Fort Worth was a drop in the bucket compared to numbers of international direct flights that continue pumping millions of dollars into the local economy, according to officials at a recent breakfast meeting.

While the 2011 game brought $250 million to the area economy, just one international direct flight provides the same amount annually.

“It happened once,” said John Terrell, vice president of commercial development with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, referring to the football game. “This happens every year over and over.”

Speaking at a Nov. 9 breakfast meeting sponsored by the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, Terrell and other aviation executives described what they called the sizable impact of air travel on the local economy.

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“For almost every single company like Toyota or Fluor, the number-one or number-two reason they moved to this region is because of DFW Airport,” said Terrell, crediting the facility’s central location, proximity to area freeways and foreign free trade zone status that saves taxes on goods stored on airport grounds for a certain period of time as among factors persuading companies to relocate to the area, set up operations at the airport and bring new residents to North Texas.

Accommodating rising numbers of travelers and corporate prospects has the airport planning a new terminal as it caps an active period that’s seen Qantas and Qatar Airways, among other carriers, add international direct flights to the airport.

“We’ve taken a market-driven approach to our development plan,” said Terrell, confirming plans to invest up to $100 million on roadway and infrastructure improvements on land at the south end of the airport to prepare for office and mixed-use property.

“This is the next major development on the airport. We’re looking to bring additional industry in,” said Terrell, also stressing the need to redevelop older cargo facilities.

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Of the airport’s $37 billion in annual economic impact, according to research firm the Perryman Group, about $17 billion comes from cargo, said Terrell, also revealing that the 65 million passengers passing through the airport annually could exceed 70 million by 2020.

Meanwhile, Fort Worth Meacham International Airport continues pushing forward with renovating and expanding its terminal and administration building as administrators grapple with an ongoing challenge.

“It’s land,” said Bill Welstead, the city’s aviation systems director, describing a backlog of aviation businesses eager to set up shop at location but not enough facilities to accommodate them.

“I have a waiting list that, if you put your name on this list today, you would not be able to get into a hangar for five years. That’s the nature of the city of Fort Worth: people want to be in the city,” Welstead said.

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The renovated building should help accommodate more tenants, said Welstead, describing a structure with small suites designed for businesses seeking space but not wanting to build their own facilities.

“We cannot keep up with the demand. It’s one of my biggest challenges,” Welstead said.