STUDY: Albert J. Ellis Airport contributes more than half a billion dollars to economy

According to an NC State University Aviation study, Eastern Carolina airports brought in about $1.3 billion in profit last year.
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 9:58 AM EST
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Onslow County, N.C. (WITN) - Albert J. Ellis Airport contributed more than half-a-billion dollars to the state and local economy, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by NC State University Institute of Transportation Research and Education, found the airport and its business partners contributed more than $565 million to the state and local economy, along with more than 3,400 jobs.

“Onslow County is recovering at a faster pace than most airports across the country,” said OAJ Airport Director Chris White. “That’s incredibly important, In Onslow County, it’s almost $20 million a year that our residents won’t have to pay in property taxes.”

Researchers say the economic activity generated millions in state and local taxes, therefore “helping to lower property and income taxes.”

The study found the state ranked 10th in the nation for aviation employment, accounting for about 14,700 jobs.

Eastern Carolina airports in total brought in about $1.3 billion total, seeing about 606,000 passengers and accounting for less than 1% of the state’s total passengers, according to the study.

It’s less than average, because of the pandemic, but higher than expected. That’s in spite of what White calls diligent cleaning of airlines and planes and efforts to enforce social distancing guidelines.

“But now, just everything’s changed,” said Quinn Seif, who flew Monday into OAJ for the first time since the pandemic began. “It wasn’t really full, we were all spread out. I had a whole row to myself and everything was changed.”

Health officials have recommended people, especially the most vulnerable, avoid traveling if not necessary.

White says the airport does enforce social distancing guidelines by blocking off every other seat and requiring face coverings, but once passengers board, it’s the responsibility of the airlines to enact and enforce guidelines.

“It can be safe to fly, just use appropriate precautions and common sense. Most of it is common sense,” said White.

All airports across the state support local business, tourism, military and economic development efforts.

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