State study: Orange airport has $11.1M economic output

  • Afternoon sunlight gleams off an airplane on the runway of Orange Municipal Airport. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2019 11:09:45 PM

ORANGE — In a town under financial stress while coming up with the next budget, the Orange Municipal Airport boasts a positive economic impact of more than $10 million — a claim bolstered by a recent statewide study.

The 2019 Massachusetts Statewide Airport Economic Study, compiled and released by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division, quantifies the economic impact of the state’s 39 public-use airports. 

The study collected information from airport sponsors; airport businesses and organizations; government agencies; pilots and passengers, estimating each airport’s economic impact partly from airport operations and businesses, capital expenditures and visitor spending. 

When it comes to the Orange Municipal Airport, the study concluded the airport’s total impact includes 110 jobs with a $4.3 million payroll and an output of $11.1 million. 

“Thousands of visitors now fly into the Orange Airport each year to conduct business, pursue local development opportunities and simply to enjoy our beautiful natural resources,” said Airport Manager Len Bedaw in a statement.

“Airport visitors, tenants and businesses pay local property taxes and spend money for food, lodging retail purchases, recreation and ground transportation,” he said. 

According to Bedaw, Orange has partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration and MassDOT in recent years to bring more than $13.5 million in federal and state grants to complete 33 major airport improvement projects. 

Last year, for example, the airport received $2.9 million in grants to complete five projects: reconstruction of Taxiway Delta and the installation of new taxiway lights; installation of 5,500 feet of airfield security fencing and gates; clearing of 60 acres of trees and brush from the runway approach and safety zones; purchase of a new tractor with attachments and installation of a new self-service aviation fueling system.

Ongoing 2019 projects include an Aeronautical Airspace Study and a Wildlife Hazard Assessment & Management Plan.

Line items in Orange’s town budget related to the airport this year include $57,429 for the manager’s salary, $35,734 in wages and $29,450 for expenses.

The economic impact study is the continuation of an effort started in 2009 to examine the structure and long-term development of the state’s airport systems. Study updates were released in 2011 and 2014. The latest 2019 update shows statewide airport employment has risen 23 percent to 199,237, statewide airport payroll has risen 19 percent to $7.24 million and statewide airport economic output has risen 49 percent to $24.69 million since the 2014 update. 

The economic impact model used in the study considers direct impacts like payments to consultants and engineers and airport businesses’ revenues, as well as multiplier impacts like money spent by employees or visitors on groceries and gas, to find an airport’s output. 

Compared to the statewide numbers, Orange’s economic impact numbers have decreased from those in the 2014 study. The previous study found 147 jobs, $4.85 million in wages and $14 million in output.

Franklin County’s only other airport, Turners Falls Airport in Montague, was also studied, and found to have 30 jobs with a $1.42 million payroll and an output of $3.924 million.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. 


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