Thanks for your question, Jon. Believe it or not, this is actually a question that I receive on a regular basis from various sources – so it’s a good one to start our new Q & A format with.
Because it has been such a hot topic for many years, we have spent a significant amount of time and effort considering the “consolidated” or “regional” airport concept that you reference in your question. Our conclusion is that 60 plus years ago, before the three Southern Tier Airports were constructed; it might have been the right move. But hindsight is always 20/20, so let’s fast forward to today.
Today, based on my research, there are many details that complicate this concept. First is the cost of building a new ‘regional’ airport, which is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $500 million. In order pay for the construction of the new airport a significant portion would need to be funded by the local tax payers through long term borrowing which translates to higher local taxes for everyone. Federal funds which are normally used to make large scale capital improvement to airports would be difficult to secure in this economic environment considering existing facilities all ready meet the needs of the area. Personally, I do not think this would be a wise investment as three very capable airports exist today and, in the case of BGM, an airport exists without the use of any Broome County tax dollars. In other words, the cost of operating BGM is paid internally by airport generated revenues and improvements made to the airport are paid by federal grants funded by users of the air travel system.
This last point is very important because there is a common misconception that BGM costs the local tax payer money. To the contrary, BGM is self sufficient while it also provides the local region with positive economic benefits such as a $52m annual economic impact, nearly 200 on-site employees, an additional 150 indirect employees and tax revenues to local municipalities. (yes, we pay school and town and County taxes) Most of this positive impact would leave Broome County should we force the airlines to relocate elsewhere.
Often we, as residents of the Greater Binghamton area, take for granted the tremendous convenience that we all have just minutes from us at the Greater Binghamton Airport. Three of the largest domestic air carriers are available to us right here in our backyard. From these carriers more than 200 valuable international and domestic destinations can be accessed with no more than one stop at a hub airport. Having service to the global business community is a strong economic tool that helps sustain the businesses that we have today and could assist us in attracting new businesses in the future.
Lastly, based on my experience, the one guarantee about airline service is that there are no guarantees. The proposed regional airport structure, even with the new passenger service area that it may create, does not guarantee lower airfares, a new airline, or any new airline service destinations beyond what exists collectively today. Justifying any air service, just the same as it is currently for BGM, is done through a concentrated effort by its community.
Ultimately, I believe that through community and business support BGM can become the airport of choice for the Southern Tier of NY and the region, which would make us the regional airport you reference.
Thanks for the great question.