January 9, 2012 | last updated April 19, 2012 1:52 pm

Briefing: Worcester Regional Airport Economic Impact

How does Worcester Regional Airport impact the local economy? A recent report commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) found surprising results related to Worcester's facility. The study found that it provides $51.4 million in both direct and indirect benefits, including 418 jobs and $13.9 million in payroll.

How did the study arrive at these figures?

According to MassPort, the transportation agency that runs Worcester Regional, Logan International in Boston, and Hanscom Airport in Bedford, there are not quite 418 people who work at the Worcester airport, as stated. MassPort said it has 23 full-time positions and another 80 employees in Worcester, who work in tower control, are employed by the federal Transportation Security Administration, or rental car companies, among other organizations.

Why is there a difference between the actual numbers and the benefits cited in the study?

The study, authored by South Carolina-based firm Wilbur Smith & Associates, uses a Federal Aviation Administration "multiplier" effect to determine the overall impact of the Worcester airport, according to Christopher Willenborg, MassDOT's aeronautics administrator. He said, for example, the wages one of those 80 employees earns at the airport will be recirculated in Central Massachusetts, providing a larger economic impact compared to direct airport impact.

How many planes take off there each year?

MassPort's seen steady increases in recent years in the number of flights and passengers. In 2009, there were 46,007 passengers on 517 flights. In 2011, there were 832 flights that carried 107,000 passengers.

Where can you fly to from the Worcester airport?

The airport's lone commercial flight operator is South Carolina-based Direct Air, a regional destination airline business. The company offers flights from Worcester to Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda, Orlando/Sanford, and West Palm Beach in Florida. It plans to add seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the spring.

What does the future hold for the airport?

MassPort officials seem optimistic about the airport's future. Matt Brelis, director of media relations for MassPort, said officials are exploring additional carriers to serve commercial passengers and are marketing the airport for use by private jets or general private aviation. MassPort hopes to enter into agreement with a firm for fixed-base operations, which are services such as taxiing and fueling for corporate and private jets, sometime this year.

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