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A by-the-numbers look at the GH airport

By Jeffrey Beswick • Nov 6, 2018 at 1:00 PM

The Grand Haven Memorial Airport has been a busy place in 2018. 

Throughout this year, this column has highlighted some of the exciting airplanes, people, stories and events that make our airport a unique community resource. Today's column will focus on some important meaningful numbers for the airport and our community.

On Oct. 1, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Airport Manager Earle Bares presented to City Council a state Community Benefit Assessment for the Grand Haven airport. This presentation calculated the economic and community benefits that our local airport provides to the Grand Haven community. 

Here's a summary of some of the important numbers and benefits of our airport, as reported by MDOT and Bares:

• $7,148,000 and $8,681,000. These are the total values of the annual local economic benefit ($7,148,000) and annual state economic benefit ($8,681,000) generated by the Grand Haven airport in 2017. These figures include direct economic benefits (like fuel sales, visitor spending, and direct business sales and deliveries), and indirect economic benefits and funds that recirculate in our local economy (like worker respending, indirect business sales and expenditures, and transactions supported by airport activities).  Since airport activity has been increasing in 2018, these economic benefit numbers will also be increasing in 2019 and following.

• 1,100, 3,822 and 6,836.  These are the numbers of recorded aircraft operations at the airport for 2016 (1,100), 2017 (3,822) and 2018 (6,836 through Oct. 1).  These figures include operations such as takeoffs and landings, skydiving activities, and monthly practice operations conducted by the familiar orange Coast Guard helicopters. Airport activities and operations are growing robustly.   

• 8,306 and $128. These are the number of visitors to our airport in 2017 (8,306) as calculated by MDOT, and MDOT's estimate of the average amount spent by each visitor to the airport ($128).

• 90/5/5.  Did you know that federal aviation grants provide 90 percent of the funds necessary for most improvements at the Grand Haven airport? Another 5 percent comes from state grants and the final 5 percent comes from the City of Grand Haven. This means that a city investment of $5 in the airport results in $100 worth of improvements to our airport.

• $3,500,000 and $186,000.  According to MDOT, over the last 20 years, federal and state grants have paid for approximately $3.5 million worth of improvements to the Grand Haven airport. MDOT reports that the city's investment for improvements over the same 20-year period was about $186,000.  Although the city annually spends more on the airport than just for improvements, a city infrastructure investment of about $9,300 per year has created $7,148,000 of local economic benefit in 2017. Not a bad investment.

• 48 is the number of aircraft currently based at the airport. This number has been growing steadily over the past several years.

• 110, 10, 8. These are some important community benefit numbers in 2018. So far this year, local pilot volunteers have given free Young Eagle airplane rides to 110 local children and teens. The airport has hosted 10 tours of school groups, including the Grand Haven High School outdoor education class. And there have been eight community-wide events held at the airport, including community fly-in breakfasts, Young Eagle flight days, community open houses and a first-time hanger dance.

• 1 Mile, Anywhere. MDOT's presentation reminded us that "if you pave 1 mile of highway, you can go 1 mile. But if you pave 1 mile of runway, you can go anywhere."

• Tier 1.  Grand Haven Memorial Airport is one of 86 airports in Michigan that are considered Tier 1 airports by MDOT.  A Tier 1 airport is one that responds to "essential/critical state airport system goals and objectives in Michigan." Grand Haven is a Tier 1 airport because it provides access to an important tourism region in Michigan.

One. Grand Haven is fortunate to have its own community airport. New Federal Aviation Administration rules provide that, except for existing airports like Grand Haven, future FAA grants will support only one airport per county. Therefore, if we were to lose our only airport, it is extremely unlikely that we would ever have another one. In this case, one is the best number!

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