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Glenwood Springs Airport back on the radar with recent Colorado aeronautics study

Planes sit near a hangar at the south end of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Two recent studies paint wildly different pictures of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport.

Since 1996, Colorado has estimated the contribution of its airports to the state’s economy every five years. 

While the final 2020 Colorado Aviation Economic Impact Study won’t be released until April, a preliminary copy shows the city’s airport as an economic powerhouse. 

The study was put out by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics and conducted by planning and design engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

According to the division of aeronautics impact study, the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport experienced an 835% change in business revenues from 2012 to 2018. The study stated that business revenues from the city’s airport increased from $3.9 million in 2012 to $36.6 million in 2018. 

But what could be driving such a significant increase? According to the study’s methodology, the airport’s business revenues factored in numerous economic measures including its employees, the businesses housed on the property, capital improvements, “visitor spending in Colorado’s hospitality-related sectors,” and more. 

If a pilot flew his or her plane into the Glenwood Springs Airport for maintenance, but also stayed at a hotel, went out to eat, took a dip in the hot springs – all of those expenditures – would be factored into that $36.6 million.

“It’s an airport-related economic impact,” Pam Keidel-Adams, Kimley-Horn vice president said. “They flew in, they did those activities. That’s why the spending and then the associated jobs and payroll applies to the airport.”

The study also reported that the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport was responsible for 202 jobs in the area. 

For comparison, Aspen-Pitkin County Airport fueled 7,886 jobs and Denver International was responsible for over a quarter of a million jobs in 2018 according to the division of aeronautics study. 

The methodology for the Aspen and Denver airports was the same as it was for Glenwood Springs.

While 7,886 people might not work on the tarmac in Aspen, the study determined that the airport helped facilitate that many jobs throughout the city.

“I believe it is reasonable to put some sort of multiplier on it,” Glenwood Springs Airport Board Chairman Gregg Rippy said.

The Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport does not accommodate large commercial airliners and no data was available concerning how many planes take off and land at the site daily.

However, according to Rippy, over 60 planes call the Glenwood Springs Airport home.

“I always thought that airport was an incredible asset and that it was underappreciated,” Rippy said.

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

The city of Glenwood Springs, as part of its Airport Property Scenario Planning Project, hired urban economists Gruen Gruen + Associates to conduct a land-use planning study for the Glenwood Springs Airport. 

The study was part of a wider effort to compare potential future uses for the airport property ranging from expanded aviation to a residential village.

According to Gruen Gruen + Associates’ study, the city’s airport had a total operating revenue of approximately $182,160 in 2018. With operating expenses amounting to over $157,000, the airport turned a net profit of $24,282 in 2018 according to that study. 

Gruen Gruen + Associates Principal Aaron Gruen said those numbers were tied to the Glenwood Springs airport directly and did not factor in what a passenger may or may not have spent throughout the city. 

Gruen Gruen + Associates’ study stated that the existing airport facilitated approximately 43.8 jobs, which includes Classic Air Medical. City Manager Debra Figueroa said the city does not have any fulltime employees at the airport. The city airport manager is a part-time position.

Classic Air Medical provides air medical transport and has a helipad at Valley View Hospital but also utilizes the airport.

“We need a location to fuel, hangar, and perform maintenance on the helicopter,” Classic Air Medical Flight Paramedic Reed Clawson said. 

Gruen Gruen + Associates estimated that the city’s airport had an economic impact on all of Garfield County that amounted to just over $8 million.

“In reality we are probably somewhere in between the two,” Rippy said of the study’s conducted by Kimley-Horn and Gruen Gruen + Associates.

mabennett@postindependent.com


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