What Is the Economic Impact of Minnesota’s Airports?

Minnesota has 135 airports that contributed more than $12.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2009, while providing nearly 165,000 jobs that produced more than $6.4 billion in labor income. It is important to note that Minnesota’s small and medium airports alone brought more than $433 million to the state’s economy and provided nearly 4,000 jobs that produced approximately $184 million in labor income!

Aviation System Funding:
  • Aviation gasoline and jet fuel tax
  • Aircraft registration
  • Airflight property tax
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Funding and grant programs
  • State of Minnesota funding and grant programs

Critical Initiatives
Improving safety: Includes airport improvements, and pilot education and safety seminars

Maintaining /enhancing air service: Mn/DOT’s Air Service Marketing Program aids airports in creatively marketing their air service.

Creating greater awareness of general aviation to help secure the local funds to match federal/state dollars for projects at airports.

Making better use of available high tech systems: The central portion of our state suffers from a large gap in radar coverage that negatively impacts aviation in many ways, including safety and efficiency.

Creating a statewide aviation system that makes best use of the limited aviation dollars. This process has just begun. As data and public input is gathered to complete this plan, the investment strategies should become clearer and help to more easily achieve our end goal; a strong aviation system that is cost effective.


The trend line for funding is flat. However, with the inflationary increases in construction, equipment, and operations at an airport, the net result is decreased buying power. Many of our airports were constructed some 30 to 50 years ago. They are reaching a critical point in their life cycle, needing some major investment just to maintain what they currently have. Since the buying power of funding has been decreasing, airport operators are putting off those investments. It is only a matter of time before the duct tape and bubble gum strategy fails. A long-term funding bill is one of the keys to assisting airports to develop long-term strategies that work.

What can people expect if an adequate level of funding is not maintained?

Airport managers will make do with the resources they have. They are a resourceful bunch, but their efforts will only be a short-term solution. Without new funds and a long-term aviation bill, the infrastructure will deteriorate. Some of the most deteriorated airports will likely be closed, requiring aviation users to travel further to the nearest airport. This loss of time will negatively impact communities in ways they haven’t even contemplated yet.

Aviation Recent Entries

Holding Pattern: Problems and Progress in Rural Aviation

Minnesota 2020 | November 03, 2011 By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow

AviationHolding PatternCommercial air service in Greater Minnesota, launched in many cities shortly after World War II, is threatened by declining passenger counts, airline retrenchment and controversy over federal subsidies to carriers.

Recent economic conditions have hit small and medium U.S. airports harder than the nation’s largest airports, with up to 18 percent losses in scheduled flight service over the past five years, compared to the biggest airports which have dropped only 2.3 percent.

These trends are forcing regional airport managers to work with local business leaders in developing ways to either retain commercial service—daily scheduled fights for the public—or find general aviation alternatives—charters, business jets, private service.

Aviation Overview

Aviation is one of the key modes of transportation that comprise a successful multi-modal approach to a state and national transportation system. It is a quick and efficient manner in which to move people and goods. The mode is comprised of three primary parts; aircraft, navigational aids, and airports. Aircraft are owned by individuals and business. The type of aircraft flying in Minnesota varies wildly from small single engine-single seat privately owned aircraft, to large passenger aircraft like a 747. Each aircraft type is designed for a certain set of purposes including: passenger transportation, business uses, cargo, recreation, medical, education, firefighting, law enforcement and agricultural. Navigational aids are another key component of aviation infrastructure. The aids guide planes during taxing on the ground, in flight, and during the approach to the landing. Our state enjoys a vast and sophisticated navigational aid network. This network allows for efficient, safe and reliable air transportation across the state regardless of weather conditions and seamless interface into the national airspace system. The last major component of aviation infrastructure is the airport. The airport is also the most expensive component and is compromised of the land side infrastructure (terminal building, hangers, parking lots, etc) and the air side infrastructure (runways, taxiways, taxi lanes, lighting, etc).

Aviation improves virtually everyone’s life in Minnesota; most of the times without people even being aware of it. Aviation connects people and cargo to the rest of the region, country, and the world.

Medical: Air ambulance provide a life saving service. Whether it is a helicopter to the scene of an automobile accident, or a hospital to hospital air transfer. All of the trips the air ambulance industry make are time sensitive and often life saving.

Business: Aviation allows Minnesota and Minnesotans to prosper in business. Many businesses rely on Aviation to transfer their salespeople, maintenance technicians, clients, parts, and/or products from place to place. A reliable aviation system helps to create a business friendly environment.

Agriculture: Agriculture relies heavily on aviation to provide crop protection from weeds and insects through crop spraying but also for on-time delivery of parts and equipment, crop/field inspections, and field surveys.

Leisure Travel: A little less than half of the airlines business comes from the leisure traveler. Whether it is visiting relatives or taking the dream vacation, traveling by air minimizes travel time and maximizes the relaxing time.

Online sales: There are literally millions of items Minnesota residents order monthly off the internet that are delivered the next day by air freight for delivery to their front doors at work and home. Air freight also allows business to prosper in rural Minnesota. Digikey, a company that sells electronic components around the world, is now the fifth largest electronic component distributor in the world. Their headquarters is in Thief River Falls Minnesota. Other examples are Arctic Cat, Team Industries, Schwan’s, and Marvin Windows.