St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS), an FAA-designated reliever airport in St. Clair County, Illinois, shared the results of a newly released study which found the airport continues to be a major contributor to the local and state economies. According to the study, which was conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), St. Louis Downtown Airport contributed more than $422 million in economic impact for the region in 2019, including factors such as on-airport activity and visitor spending.
Located in Cahokia Heights and Sauget, Illinois, just a few minutes east of Downtown St. Louis, the report notes that St. Louis Downtown Airport acts as a Gateway to the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Due to its strategic location, St. Louis Downtown is one of the busiest general aviation airports in Illinois. The airport supports significant activity from recreational and business flying, as well as flight instruction from the St. Louis University Parks College, the nation’s oldest flight school. The study highlights that, in addition to several aircraft and helicopter maintenance organizations at the airport, one of the largest maintenance, repair, and overhaul organizations, Gulfstream Aerospace, is located at the airport. Additional activities supported by the airport include government operations, military training, real estate tours, medical transport, aerospace technology research, and glider flying.
“The diversity of operations occurring here at St. Louis Downtown Airport contributes to our continued role as an economic engine for the bi-state St. Louis region and makes us a key contributor to the tremendous strength of the aviation sector in the State of Illinois,” said Taulby Roach, President and CEO of Bi-State Development, which owns and operates the airport as one of its enterprises.
The study also shows that St. Louis Downtown Airport remains a major employer in the St. Louis area, contributing to 1,522 full-time and part-time jobs in the region. The airport’s sizeable workforce generated $105.8 million in labor income — or total employment compensation — in 2019, including wages and other benefits, according to the results of the study. Revenue generated from visitors from out of state travelling through St. Louis Downtown Airport for business or personal reasons in 2019 totaled $13.6 million spent on things like accommodations, local ground transportation, retail and entertainment. The report also revealed the “value added” economic productivity of each aviation related business establishment connected to the airport” was $177.7 million in 2019.
“While we’ve faced some challenges in recent years, not the least of which is the global pandemic that temporarily stalled the aviation industry, our potential for continued growth is evident in the strong rebound in flights taking advantage of the airport’s unmatched location to Downtown St. Louis and the surrounding region,” said Roach.
Between January 1 and October 31, 2021, KCPS hosted more than 85,600 flight operations, an increase of more than 3,500 operations compared to the same period in 2019. That’s a clear sign the airport is emerging stronger than ever following the pandemic-related challenges the past two years. Additional growth is expected to stem from the $5 million state grant recently awarded to the airport from the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan Governor Pritzker signed into law in 2019. The funding will cover the cost of building a Ground Engine Run-Up facility, which is a critical improvement that will benefit four aircraft maintenance providers operating at St. Louis Downtown Airport. The project will support more than 450 high-tech aerospace manufacturing jobs by improving production safety, reliability and efficiency, improving airport businesses and increasing global competitiveness for Southwestern Illinois and the State of Illinois. It is also part of the airport’s overall infrastructure implementation plan which supports 25 airport tenant manufacturing and aviation operations, ensures tenant leasehold longevity and supports future airport business growth.
The $422 million figure for St. Louis Downtown Airport represents the sum of on-airport activity generated by the airport management and administration and airport tenants, as well as on-airport construction. St. Louis Downtown Airport is one of two commercial service airports and 14 general aviation airports welcoming business travelers and visitors to Region 5 of Illinois, the state’s southernmost region. In 2019, airports in Region 5 generated 28,595 jobs, $2.1 billion in labor income and $2.6 billion in value added for a total regional economic impact of $6.1 billion. The study determined that, combined, Illinois’s five regions are home to a network of more than 80 airports that generated 492,186 jobs and contributed $95.4 billion to the state’s economy in 2019.
Bi-State Development (BSD) owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. BSD is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; a MetroBus fleet of nearly 400 clean-burning diesel and battery electric vehicles; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 125 vans. BSD also operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the two-state region’s freight district.