(Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001. Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)
North Carolina has 74 airports –14 with scheduled air-carrier passenger service and four hubs.
According to a 1995 study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the 74 public airports contributed $9.1 billion to the state economy, but 90 percent of these benefits were associated with three airports — Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Piedmont Triad.
Total enplanements from North Carolina grew from 8.5 million passengers in 1985 to 17.1 million passengers in 1997.
Many believe that, as the economy increases its dependence on speed and agility, air-based commerce will “become its logistical backbone,” according to Aerotropolis: Airport-Drive Urban Development by John D. Kasarda.
It is estimated that air service already accounts for 40 percent of the value of global trade.
Despite the strategic importance of public airports, North Carolina has invested less in aviation facilities than many other states.
In 2000, North Carolina was ranked 36th in the U.S. in per capita state and local air transport spending, and 37th in state and local air transport spending as a percent of personal income.
With the growing interest by air carriers in North Carolina — the decision by Federal Express to open a major hub at Piedmont Triad, and the decision of Southwest to expand service at Raleigh-Durham — this trend could change.