At first glance, the value of an airport could be assumed to be strictly as an aeronautical utility. Certainly, at a fundamental level, airports exist to serve the needs of pilots seeking well-maintained and strategically-located facilities for the take-off, landing, and storage of their airplanes. However, looking further at the secondary effects induced by these flight operations reveals an economic significance that extends beyond the cockpit or perimeters of the airfield, and deep into the surrounding regional community.
FDK as a Business Hub
In 2015, an economic study by the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) aimed to quantify the impacts of Frederick Municipal Airport. FDK was found to create over 1,000 actual and estimated jobs -- which summed to nearly $60 million in local personal income. The business revenue generated by FDK topped out over a remarkable $110 million, which serviced another $6.316 million in state and local taxes.
Though hard to track precisely, a portion of these economic benefits are drawn from the 300+ businesses that choose to fly into Frederick airport annually. Easier to recognize, however, is the thriving ecosystem that has sprung up to support the unique asset the airport represents to the City.
Currently six aeronautical businesses lease land directly from the airport’s 616-acre campus. These businesses include:
· Signature Flight Support– the airport’s fixed based operator that serves as the direct interface to incoming pilots
· GV Air Inc. – an aerial photography services company
· AOPA – the world’s largest aviation association in the world; operator of the National Aviation Community Center at FDK; and last year’s winner of Frederick County’s Best Places to Work's Major Employer award
The airport’s final direct tenant is the Maryland State Police’s emergency services helicopter, known best by its designation, "Trooper 3." Although not a business, this airport tenant generates its own community benefits by providing local search and rescue, aeromedical evacuation, and other police assistance services.
Still , other local businesses – including shuttle services (e.g. BayRunner Shuttle off Hughes Ford Road), restaurants – (including the airport's own Airways Inn) and hotels – have also grown to accommodate the coming and going of pilots, passengers, and airport-business employees.
FDK Continues to Expand its Economic Role
Since the 2015 study, FDK has only continued to expand and develop its business-related opportunities. Most notably, the City of Frederick - which operates the airport – recently released two Requests for Proposals, regarding private hangar development. The first RFP, which offered the opportunity to develop a multi-hangar complex, has closed and the procurement process is nearing the final stages. The second RFP - for a 1.03-acre land lease - will remain open until April 27. This pair of developments offers unprecedented opportunity for corporate operators to base aircraft at FDK.
Also currently underway is the extension of the main runway. By 2020, the runway will be extended to 5820’, up from its current length of 5220'. This extension will increase the safety margins for all aircraft and allow larger corporate jets to operate out of Frederick with greater fuel and passenger load - making FDK a more capable and attractive airport overall.
In anticipation of these improvements, the FDK staff has begun to proactively market the airport to a broader business aviation audience. In February, airport staff traveled to Long Beach California to exhibit at the National Business Aviation Association’s Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference. FDK, - already the third busiest airport in Maryland, – was introduced to the broader aviation community as the preferred executive airport in the National Capital Region due to its competitive amenities, low costs, convenient access, and strategic position outside Baltimore and Washington D.C.
The State plans to update the aforementioned economic impact study. Given the exciting developments at FDK, a significant statistical increase is anticipated in the economic impact generated by Frederick’s airport.