If there’s anything we’ve learned throughout this global pandemic, it’s how important mobility is to our economy and society as a whole. Michigan Chamber members and individuals everywhere rely on our infrastructure network which is an interconnected network that supports our food chain, the transportation of commercial goods, the operations of major corporations, and nearly every industry and sector in our country.
Trains, cars, ships and planes are all tools that fuel our economy. Here in Michigan, this includes our network of local airports for public use and general aviation aircraft or smaller aircraft. We’ve taken a devastating blow here in Michigan – shutdowns and quarantine measures have brought manufacturing to a near halt, and all but the most essential industries and businesses, including their supply chains, have come to a halt.
The Michigan Chamber has seen firsthand that this pandemic has had a ripple effect on our businesses and communities, and has impacted businesses of all sizes in terms of efficiency and competitiveness. Business aviation, which is part of general aviation, is an essential tool that helps companies maintain their competitive edge in the global marketplace. Our network of airports allows companies and businesses to quickly connect to other parts of the country.
For example, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers who encounter mechanical or supply issues to airlift needed parts, tools, or personnel to other locations. General aviation aircraft and our network of local airports provide fast point-to-point connections that allow a business to quickly call on an expert to solve a problem, meet multiple customers and reach otherwise inaccessible places. All this to say that as we emerge from this pandemic, our airport network will play an important role in rebuilding our economy.
Public use airports are also an essential tool for providing transportation access in areas where there may be no commercial service. To give you an idea, our state is home to over 200 general aviation airports, many of which can connect communities that do not have commercial service. Public-use airports also create jobs, both through training and through the hiring of mechanics, technicians and flight instructors, who support the local community.
Additionally, there are businesses, such as restaurants and car rental companies, that also support the airport and create jobs. In total, general aviation is a $247 billion-a-year industry that supports more than 1.1 million American jobs. In Michigan, general aviation supports more than $5.2 billion in economic output and more than 33,000 jobs, which translates to $1.4 billion in labor income.
General aviation is also essential in supporting essential services including medical transport, search and rescue efforts and other important public services.
Over the past few months, general aviation aircraft and volunteer pilots have helped transport much-needed supplies. Our network of airports, coupled with the versatility of general aviation, has proven invaluable in transporting personal protective equipment, COVID-19 test samples and even ventilators to areas in desperate need. of supplies.
But general aviation is also suffering from this pandemic. Nationally, business aviation activity continues to decline, and some smaller airports across the country have seen activity decline by up to 90%. Here in Michigan, general aviation flight operations were down 22% in June compared to the same periods in 2019.
Our economy is still suffering. As we try to rebuild after this pandemic, mobility will be very important for all sectors.
To attract investment and keep jobs in Michigan, we must have a healthy general aviation industry in our state. Our policy makers in Washington have shown great leadership in supporting this crucial piece of our infrastructure through relief. Hopefully they will continue to do so and that state policy makers will follow suit to ensure our economy continues to recover.
Jim Holcomb is senior executive vice president and general counsel at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.