Regional and municipal airports like Mesa-Gateway, Scottsdale and Deer Valley are vital economic drivers for cities and towns across the Valley.
These airports not only provide jobs and tax dollars, but they also are a critical tool for attracting large corporations.
“The regional airports definitely play an integral role in economic development,” said Chris Camacho, Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO. “It’s this set of regional hubs that have made our ability within GPEC to recruit companies from around the world.”
The Valley has three regional airports with the Phoenix Deer Valley Airport and Phoenix Goodyear Airport located in the West Valley and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway serving the East Valley. The two largest municipal airports can be found in Scottsdale and Glendale.
Bringing an airport to the city of Peoria was one of Mayor Jason Beck’s talking points on the campaign trail, and staff began the initial steps to begin this process. The proposed tentative fiscal year 2023-24 budget includes a total of $500,000 for an airport feasibility study and airport consulting and lobbying.
“Not all the airports are exactly the same, but each of the cities, respectively, is leveraging them from an economic value standpoint,” Camacho said.
In 2021, the Arizona Department of Transportation released its Arizona Aviation Economic Impact Study, which tracked 2019 figures for the state’s airports.
Scottsdale Airport generated almost 6,000 jobs, reported earnings of $320.2 million and had an economic impact of more than $1 billion.
“Scottsdale Airport is a powerhouse of economic activity that creates jobs, boosts tourism and generates millions in revenue,” said Sarah Ferrara, Scottsdale Airport aviation planning and outreach coordinator. “It’s a vital gateway for business and travel that benefits our community, region and state.”
Scottsdale Airport began in 1942 as Thunderbird Field II. In 1966, Scottsdale acquired the airfield from the Arizona Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The airport has one 8,200-foot runway and no commercial commuter or airline service. It’s also home to many Valley corporate aircraft. The airport facilities sit on more than 300 acres in the north-central part of Scottsdale.
Among municipal airports in the West Valley, Glendale Municipal in 2019 created 404 jobs with earnings of about $21.3 million and an economic impact on the area of $54.8 million.
The city of Glendale has operated its airport since 1971, and it has been in its current location near Glendale and 99th avenues since 1987.
The airport encompasses 477 acres, maintains a 7,150-foot runway and houses 474 aircraft.
Camacho said the Scottsdale and Glendale airports are notable leaders, historically, in business aviation and many of GPEC’s clients fly into those airports because there’s office and industrial spaces around that area.
“I think having so many of these reliever airports for business aviation has really been a value-add for our big corporate users here in the Valley,” Camacho said.
Along with Sky Harbor, the city of Phoenix operates Deer Valley and Goodyear airports in the West Valley. They join Glendale Municipal Airport and, to a smaller extent, Buckeye Municipal Airport in providing air service to the region.
Deer Valley generated more than 3,000 jobs in 2020, earned $182.3 million and created a $508.2 million economic impact.
“Deer Valley included, there are four airports in addition to Sky Harbor that serve the West Valley. This is important because the West Valley spans 3,000 square miles with 1.8 million residents,” said Sintra Hoffman, Westmarc president and CEO.
Westmarc — the Western Maricopa Coalition — serves to position the West Valley for increased economic development, job growth and quality of life.
“There are a growing number of companies surrounding the Goodyear Airport, making it a business hub within the region,” Hoffman said.
Deer Valley was built in 1960 as a private airfield with a single runway. Today, it sits on 914 acres and has two parallel runways, one 4,500 feet and the second almost 8,200 feet. It has no commercial travel aviation. The airport is adjacent to Glendale, Peoria and Scottsdale.
In 2019, Phoenix Goodyear created 1,008 jobs, earned $59 million and had an economic impact on the area of $156.6 million.
Before it became a part of the Phoenix airport system, Goodyear was known as the Naval Air Facility Litchfield Park. In 1968, Phoenix bought the property for $550,000.
Phoenix Goodyear is near companies such as Lockheed Martin, Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s fulfillment center, Amazon.com’s fulfillment center, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sub-Zero. It has more than 300 acres that can be developed and a single runway that is 8,500 feet long.
“In the next 30 years, for places like Buckeye and certainly Goodyear, Glendale — they’re going to see so much more activity because there’s more industrial manufacturing growing out in that direction,” Camacho said.
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