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Just How Important Are Our Airports To Our Economy?

Airport’s Economic Impact Study Released

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority supported more than 187,000 jobs and contributed $23.6 billion to the National Capital Region’s economy in 2017, including $9 billion spent by visitors arriving by air, according to an economic impact study by a leading international research firm.

The Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line extension of the region’s Metrorail transit system, spent more than $950 million during the year, 80 percent of which went to local businesses.

Reagan National and Dulles International brought 8.4 million visitors to the National Capital Region from across the country and around the world, who spent about $9 billion across the area on transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and shopping. If all its economic activity were combined into a single private-sector corporation, the Airports Authority would have ranked No. 123 on the Fortune 500 list for 2017, according to the study.

“This research validates the Airports Authority’s progress in pursuing our missions of serving the traveling public and supporting local economic growth and development,” said Airports Authority president and CEO Jack Potter. “Our partnerships with state and local governments, particularly in the increasingly important area of promoting travel and tourism in our region, have been instrumental in our success.” 

The study, commissioned from London-based IHS Markit, a business information provider, looked at the regional economic impact of Reagan National and Dulles International airports and their combined 46.6 million passengers per year, along with the impact of the Airports Authority’s construction of the Silver Line Metrorail project and Dulles Toll Road. The analysis was structured around the key economic impact categories of visitor spending, travel services and local spending.

Other key findings of the study, based on 2017 data, include:

  • About 300 businesses operated on the airport campuses to support airline operations and deliver travel services to the 46.6 million passengers who passed through the airports. These businesses stimulated $7.4 billion in economic output and supported 44,600 jobs.
  • In 2017, the Airports Authority spent nearly $590 million on construction of the Metro Silver Line extension, of which $496.5 million went to local businesses in the D.C.-Maryland-
    Virginia region. The Silver Line is bringing substantial economic development all along its path in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Northern Virginia.
  • The Airports Authority’s local spending stimulated $2.3 billion in local economic output and supported 11,300 jobs.
  • The Airports Authority’s business activities contributed nearly $14.4 billion to regional gross
    domestic product.
  • The 187,000 jobs supported by the Airports Authority’s businesses would be equal to the population of a city that would be the sixth-largest in Virginia. That number of people would fill four major sports stadiums in the area: FedEx Field, Nationals Park, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and DC United’s Audi Field.
  • The Airports Authority helped stimulate more than $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2017, translating to a daily rate of $3 million flowing to state and local tax authorities. This is enough money to educate 87,000 public school students per year across the region.
  • The $9 billion in regional spending by 8.4 million visitors included $1.4 billion spent by 1.4 million visitors in Maryland, $3 billion spent by 2.9 million visitors in the District of Columbia and $4.5 billion spent by 4.1 million visitors in Virginia.

More information on the report can be found at

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