That’s the conclusion from a new report by Anchorage’s Northern Economics, a consulting firm hired by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The report, following on the heels of one that looked at the impact of airports on the state as a whole, examined 12 airports representative of the hundreds the state owns, operates or leases.
“It’s almost like an argument to show why our airports are valuable to us,” said DOT planner Jessica Dellacroce, talking about the reasons for commissioning the report. “In trying to tell the story, we’re looking for as many tools as we can, and this is one of them.”
The 12 communities surveyed were Bethel, Deadhorse, Eek, Fairbanks, Haines, Hooper Bay, Iliamna, Juneau, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Talkeetna and Wasilla.
Northern Economics senior economist Jonathan King, who directed the report, said Kodiak was unique among the airports surveyed.
“Kodiak really stands out because the typical Alaska airport receives much more cargo than it sends out,” he said. “Kodiak ships out way more than it receives.”
In 2009, Kodiak shipped more than 8 million pounds of cargo and received just 3.36 million pounds. In comparison, Bethel, which serves as a transportation hub for the Yukon and Kuskokwim river deltas, accepted 13.7 million pounds of cargo and shipped out just 9 million in 2009.
“(That difference) really emphasizes Kodiak’s role as a major fish processing harbor and station,” King said.
Like Bethel, Kodiak also serves as a hub for flights to villages and small towns. While Anchorage was the biggest partner for Kodiak, receiving 81 percent of its cargo traffic and 80 percent of its passenger traffic, Old Harbor represented 4.6 percent of Kodiak’s cargo traffic, Ouzkinkie 2.8 percent, King Salmon 2.7 percent, and Larsen Bay with 1.9 percent.
Following Larsen Bay, in decreasing order, were Dillingham, Port Lions, Akhiok, Iliamna, Karluk and all other destinations.
In passenger traffic, the top three places were the same, followed by Larsen Bay in fourth, Port Lions fifth and Akhiok sixth.
The report noted how heavily Kodiak archipelago communities rely on the airport for regular transportation. In one example, the report compares Old Harbor’s population of 193 to the 3,436 filled passenger seats that departed Kodiak for the Old Harbor airport.
“It really reinforced for us how dependent we are on the air system,” King said, “how airports are the way we’re interconnected as a state.”
All those flights generate a lot of jobs. According one section of the report, compiled using surveys to airport leaseholders, 90 full-time and 40 part-time jobs in Kodiak were provided by people working for companies that work at the airport. Another nine people were employed at other airports to deal with Kodiak’s traffic, the report estimates. Another nine people were employed directly to operate the airport.
“This shows just how important these airports are as a creator of jobs, not just in these communities but in the state,” King said. “In some of these communities, if the airport went away, you can imagine just a huge proportion of the jobs going away.”
Dellacroce said DOT will be able to use figures like these to explain projects like the “Bridge to Nowhere,” which would have connected Ketchikan’s airport to the city proper.
“Why would you do that for so few people? Well, they are of great value to us,” Dellacrosse said.
She also said the reports have been condensed and individualized into brochures for the 12 communities and their chambers of commerce.
“We hope the individual communities may find value in this,” she said.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.