Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport’s economic impact on this area of the state would more than triple if service to three new destinations were added, according to a study conducted for the Tweed Airport Authority.
The current economic impact, based on 2017 data, is $78.86 million, according to the study. That includes $35.32 million in wages paid to airport employees as well as workers whose jobs benefit either directly or indirectly from Tweed’s operation.
If three new destinations were added, it is estimated Tweed’s economic impact would grow to $275 million.
Discussion of Tweed’s economic impact has taken on a new sense of importance following a federal appeals court decision earlier this month that ruled in favor of the airport’s longstanding lawsuit seeking to strike down a state statute limiting the length of the main runway.
Airport and city officials acknowledge it could be several years before the Tweed Airport Authority gets the necessary approvals for runway expansion and begins wooing new airlines to begin service, or convinces American Eagle, which is providing existing service, to add more destinations. But authority Executive Director Matt Hoey said he is optimistic that adding three new destinations travelers could reach directly from the airport is an attainable goal.
As it stands now, there are an estimated 6 million flights out of New York-area airports made by travelers who live in Tweed’s primary service area, said Hoey, who serves as first selectman in Guilford.
“A fuller range of service from New Haven could impact Bradley (International Airport),” he said. “But more likely, we'll pick up some of the flights out of New York City airports.”
New Haven Interim Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said city and airport officials ideally would like to see service to Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta added.
“It’s probably not realistic to get service to all three,” Piscitelli said. “But two of the three would be great. The three to four flights we have per day now really don’t begin to meet the needs of this market.”
Tweed currently offers commercial flights three times per day to Philadelphia and once each Saturday to Charlotte, N.C., and beyond via American Eagle. It also offers summertime seasonal weekend service to Nantucket, Mass., via Southern Airways Express.
Pistcatelli and Hoey said enhancing service at Tweed is critical to the economic health of both Connecticut and the region.
“Many of the leading growth centers in this country have strong airports,” Piscatelli said.
Hoey said Tweed “is not going to be a good fit for every business and every leisure traveler.”
“But what it will do is create a healthier and more robust economy in the state,” he said.
There already is evidence that the limited service available from Tweed is hurting the existing economy in the region.
Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of REX Development/Economic Development Corp. of New Haven, said an existing manufacturing company, which she declined to identify, moved its sales force to another city outside Connecticut because the lack of adequate air travel options.
“Time is money for these companies,” Kozlowski said. “Any way that we can shorten the amount of time that it takes to get to and from the New Haven area can only benefit us, both in terms of retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones.”
Hoey said the chief executive officer of Achillion Pharmaceuticals, which had been one of the New Haven area’s oldest biotech firms, cited access to Philadelphia and Newark International airports as a factor in the company’s decision to relocate its headquarters to Pennsylvania in February.