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October 22, 2019

10/3/2019 7:29:00 AM
Report: Airport contributes over $35 million to local economy

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

The Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport has been called an economic engine for the area and the results of a recent study bolster the claim.

On Monday, the commission that oversees the airport released the results of a Wisconsin Department of Transportation-Bureau of Aeronautics (WI BOA) annual economic report which shows the airport contributed over $35 million to the area's economy in 2018.

"Over $35 million of local economic impact and 137 full-time jobs are attributable to activities derived solely from the airport's presence," the commission noted in a press release. "Visitors utilizing the airport contribute $6.5 million to the local economy which sustains 75 full-time jobs."

According to the release, the data used for the report was gathered from activity directly related to the 24,820 aircraft operations (defined as one takeoff or landing) which took place in 2018, and does not include industry or businesses located in the airport's industrial park.

Airport director Matthew Leitner said it is his understanding that this contribution has gone up.

"It has from what I can discern, but it's been so long since we've done a survey, it's hard to ascertain with any degree of accuracy how much it's gone up," he explained.

Leitner said the statistics in the report can be used to compare the airport to others in the state.

"We're not too far off La Crosse, which I found pretty impressive," he noted.

The newly released report does not include numbers generated via the third daily round trip Rhinelander-Minneapolis flight Delta implemented this summer, as the data used to create the report was based on 2018 statistics.

"It's really going to be interesting to do another one after the additional capacity that Delta offered," Leitner said. "I'm sure it was probably an additional couple million dollars with the additional thousands of people we had coming in and out over the summer."

According to Leitner, Delta has not made a decision yet as to whether it will resume the midday flight next summer.

"Right now, I think it's looking good. We're going to be talking to them a little but in the fall after they have all the data from this," Leitner said. "And we're going to see where we go from there."

The third flight proved to be very popular with people flying to and from Minneapolis and Rhinelander, he noted.

"It didn't take long for that fight to catch on, so to speak," Leitner said. "In the beginning, it would have been down a little bit, compared to the rest of the summer, but after a week, it was just running full consistently day after day.

The Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport Commission, with financial assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and WI BOA, is engaging in $3.796 million worth of capital improvement projects in 2019, including an expanded passenger seating and screening area.

Leitner said he expects the work to get underway soon and be completed by March 2020.

While the airport adds a lot to the area's economy, that wouldn't happen without help, he added.

"We just can't do it without the community and region's support, including local government," Leitner said. "And we're very grateful for it. The county and city individually contribute about one half of one percent of the local economic impact figure. To me, it's a great investment from their perspective, and ours."

Reporter Jamie Taylor may be reached at via email

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