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Lehigh Valley International Airport’s Importance to Regional Economy Discussed

By Colin McEvoy on May 27, 2016

The Lehigh Valley International Airport recently hosted a meeting by the meeting the Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus. (photo courtesy LVIA)

The Lehigh Valley International Airport recently hosted a meeting by the meeting the Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus. (photo courtesy LVIA)

The role and impact the Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) has on regional economic development was on full display during a recent meeting the Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus held at the Hanover Township, Lehigh County airport.

The caucus serves to ensure the Pennsylvania General Assembly is sufficiently informed and knowledgeable about aviation issues and how they impact the state, and to provide legislative leadership and visibility for issues affecting the aviation industry.

“Establishing a caucus and coming to the Lehigh Valley to discuss the economic impact of airports is visionary on their part,” said Charles Everett, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “When you talk about retaining businesses in the Lehigh Valley and getting businesses to come here, making sure we’re in a position to accommodate them is the next critical link.”

Among those who presented during the May 26 meeting was Matthew Tuerk, Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), who discussed why airports are meaningful to economic development, and what can be done to strengthen the relationships between airports and economic development partners.

The aviation industry employs more than 100,000 people in the United States and contributes $10.8 billion to the national economy, including $5.5 billion for airport management and operations, and $5.3 billion for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.

Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing, presented at the Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus meeting.

Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing, presented at the Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus meeting.

As an example of the latter category, Tuerk cited Safran subsidiary Messier-Buggati-Dotwy, a French multi-national aircraft landing and braking systems company, which last year established a wheel and brake repair facility in Lower Nazareth Township, providing services for such commercial airline brands as Boeing, Airbus, and JetBlue.

“They were able to locate here in part because of the airport,” Tuerk said. “The growth of MRO projects like this are dependent on domestic and international travel. Availability of hangar space at LVIA also positions the region well for attracting that kind of operation.”

Transportation resources is also an important resource for site selectors and businesses. A 2016 Area Development survey found accessibility to a major airport is considered important or very important to more than 44 percent of responding site selectors, more important than corporate tax rates, union presence, and energy availability and costs.

Foreign direct investment has been increasingly important for the Lehigh Valley economy, with eight of the region’s 19 major business attraction/expansion projects in 2015 or 42 percent coming from overseas companies. Tuerk said it is critically important for representatives of those companies to have quick access to their investment via airports.

Tuerk discussed what can be done to strengthen the economic impact of airports, including increased marketing through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, investing in infrastructure improvements, and providing incentives such as air subsidies.

The caucus also discussed the elimination of a state tax on aircraft maintenance services, which was approved by the Pennsylvania legislature three years ago. That tax made Pennsylvania less competitive against neighboring New Jersey and New York, which did not have such a tax in place.

“The elimination of that tax levels the playing field for Pennsylvania in terms of attracting MRO facilities,” Tuerk said.

The Pennsylvania Senate Aviation Caucus meeting was attended by representatives from the offices of state Sen. Lisa Boscola, state Sen. Pat Browne, and state Sen. Mario Scavello, among others. J. Michael Dowd, chairman of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, was also in attendance.

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