If we learned anything from the last year, it’s that disruption events happen and can directly impact aviation in a blink of an eye. In the last decade, airports have survived terrorism, a national recession, and now a global pandemic. While we cannot predict when or what the next disruption will be, we can plan for such events and position airports to be as resilient as possible when they occur. Land Use + Economic tools can help facilitate an airport’s success during good times and bad as well as help disruption-proof our industry. Today, it’s more important than ever to focus on a diverse revenue stream (the money coming in) and maximizing every penny spent by an airport (the money going out). 

Ensuring a diverse revenue stream: Although airport property has become a fairly standard tool in the toolbox for alternative revenue opportunities, that doesn’t always mean land is ready for development and being used to its highest potential. A land use analysis that is market aware and economic development aligned helps to determine if land or other assets are targeted and/or utilized for their highest and best use. Alternatively, perhaps an interim or long-term alternative use exists that would be in the best interest of the airport and its surrounding community. Can you imagine if it was as easy as putting a “for lease” sign in the ground? However, optimized land uses must be identified and prepared for so that operational, regulatory, and market needs are addressed. Even Section 163 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which offers reduced regulatory oversight for certain development projects, can require significant preparation to just get to the review of its applicability and potential relief. In order to be proactive, airports must ensure their land or other assets are ready to capture opportunity in the near and/or long term. Determining this path forward today ensures the opportunity to put new revenue streams in place before the next disruption event.

Maximizing every penny spent: From an economic and planning perspective, project benefit evaluation is an increasingly relevant tool airports can use to help ensure that limited resources are put to best use. In addition to the factors traditionally included in a cost benefit analysis, this approach considers the comprehensive nature of a project and identifies the full range of positive outcomes resulting from it. This benefit-side knowledge can help ensure better outcomes and influence positive perceptions of your investment – advantages that carry heightened importance as we face a new reality of tightened budgets and a need to extract more “bang for the buck” from project investments. Additionally, funding programs (including possible stimulus programs) are increasingly likely to prioritize “shovel-worthy” projects that can demonstrate their value and worthiness for investment.

In today’s environment, resources are limited and time is of the essence. It is paramount that airports use every tool available to them to ensure a diverse revenue stream while maximizing every dollar spent. Land Use + Economic tools ensure airports are resilient and ready to face the next disruption.  

Barbie Schalmo, AICP
Associate Director
Land Use + Economics Lead
C&S Companies
This blog post was provided by our Virtual Partner C&S Companies.