Economically strong communities don’t just happen by chance. They thrive because individuals turn personal interests and passions into profitable businesses that provide jobs, tax revenues and community support. Successful communities accept and manage the risks related to business to benefit from the resulting prosperity.
Recent high-profile aviation accidents in our area have prompted another round of concern about safety issues. Sometimes that discussion threatens our ability to use aviation resources to drive economic growth and prosperity. Arizona has benefited greatly from aviation, and we are now poised to grow as a national and global leader in the aerospace industry. The anticipated economic rewards far outweigh any associated risks.
Local aviation activities and industries yield billions of dollars of economic impact. The eleven airports in metro Phoenix bring business and leisure passengers and cargo. They support military and other government and public-safety operations such as firefighting, homeland security and local law enforcement.
They also provide manufacturers with product development and flight-testing facilities. Facilities like Luke Air Force Base have been critical components of the Arizona economy for more than 70 years. Each year, aircraft operators purchase millions of gallons of fuel locally. Maintenance professionals keep our aircraft operating safely. Flight instructors and schools provide training to help pilots safely operate in our airspace. Local manufacturers build aircraft and component parts for aircraft used in civilian and military aviation as well as in space exploration. Our airports help to fill our hotels, restaurants, shopping venues and sporting events. The resulting tax revenues pour millions of dollars into our state and local governments.
The Arizona Department of Transportation Multimodal Division estimates that our airports directly bring more than $38 billion per year to the greater Phoenix economy. And much of this impact comes from airports other than Phoenix Sky Harbor. For example, Mesa’s Falcon Field Airport and related businesses add more than $2.3 billion annually to Mesa’s economy, and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport promises to be a center of growth and prosperity. Arizona’s aviation resources improve our community and are worth protecting.
The risks associated with aviation are no greater or different from similar risks we take every day. Every time we drive an automobile, we risk injury or death, yet we continue to use roads and highways. If there is an accident, we don’t demand the closure of roads or highways or the elimination of automobiles. We accept the risk because it allows us to pursue our personal and business objectives.
Managing the risk by eliminating or excessively limiting aviation resources or activities would seriously harm our economy. Across our country, airports are threatened by debates about safety, noise and environmental contamination. Some communities, such as Santa Monica, Calif., live under the threat that they may soon lose their local airport to the debate.
When communities close airports that give individuals and businesses access to the national airspace system, they lose important economic opportunities that, once lost, are almost impossible to replace. Arizona must remain supportive of a strong aviation industry in all of its aspects while we confront the occasional negative impacts and work to understand causes, improvements and prevention.
Arizona is poised to be an important national contender in the continuing growth of aviation-related industries. As a community we should be eager to promote aviation in our community and to enjoy the prosperity it brings.
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