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What Aviation Means to Iowa

Iowa Aviation

April 6, 2023

Like getting in your car each morning and having it start, we expect to fly where we want to go from our local airport. Iowa's eight commercial service airports serve more than 27 nonstop routes while offering countless connections to global destinations on seven domestic carriers. The Iowa Department of Transportation released an aviation economic impact report highlighting the value of Iowa's airports to the state's economy, shining a light on what is often an overlooked asset in our communities.

The bottom line is this, aviation in Iowa is a vital economic engine for the state generating an impact of more than $6.4 billion annually and an asset worth investing in. But before we launch into the case for the vitality of Iowa's airports, let's talk about the added benefit to our quality of life as Iowans.

Quality of Life

As we close out the NCAA tournaments, we should note that our favorite collegiate teams rely on Iowa's airports to make our favorite sporting events possible. The Iowa Economic Development Authority touts our air service connectivity as they seek to recruit talent and relocate businesses to our great state and partner with leaders to bring events and attractions to Iowa. Locally, Catch Des Moines has successfully recruited national events to Greater Des Moines (DSM) partly because of the connectivity the Des Moines International Airport offers, noting that it is “an instrumental part of our team’s ability to bring national conventions and events like the World Pork Expo, IRONMAN 70.3 and hundreds of others to our region.”

The quality of life of our residents is vastly improved by the ability to leverage air travel for pleasure, especially with the addition of low-cost carriers at three of the state's eight commercial service airports making air travel more affordable. And with more connectivity and placemaking projects like the ICON Water Trails and Pro Iowa Stadium and Global Plaza planned for DSM, we should be looking to leverage the region as an air travel destination for visitors around the country, putting to rest the long-running tale that Iowa is part of flyover country.

As the report states, accessibility to air travel creates time savings and economic efficiency. It enables human connections, something we need as much as we do our car starting each morning. And for many, we hop in our car five out of seven days to head to work to contribute to the success of our organizations. So, how does aviation impact business in Iowa?

Aviation Supports Iowa Business

Aviation is an engine that contributes to the efficiency and success of Iowa companies. Iowa's aviation industry generates over 41,000 jobs across major industries that serve as the foundation of Iowa's economy. Businesses boost productivity through general aviation, commercial aviation and air cargo services. Iowa’s two largest airports see over 93,000 tons of cargo shipped by air annually.

The economic report shares that the impact of aviation services on state and local tax revenues is $115 million in annual sales and income tax revenue, not including indirect/induced economic impacts. When we add in fuel sales, aircraft registration and aircraft sales, the total aviation-related taxes in Iowa combine for over $124 million in tax revenue annually.

Plus, more people are flying. Airline passenger boarding is up nearly 50% since 2000, processing more than 4 million passengers in Iowa annually. To sustain and grow aviation's impact on the Iowa economy, airports across the state are working on updating aging facilities to meet growing local needs. According to the State of Iowa's Department of Transportation Aviation Economic Impact study, one dollar of capital expenditures at Iowa airports correlates to $16 of annual economic benefit to the state economy, a strong return on capital investment. As the report states, "aviation is an important transportation asset and one worth investing in."

DSM: Your Local Airport

You may already know that Des Moines International Airport is the state's largest airport and that legacy and low-cost carriers offer nonstop service to 31 airports in the U.S., a 29% increase in destinations since 2019, or that Des Moines International Airport welcomes over 600,000 visitors annually. Today, Des Moines International Airport accounts for over 63% of enplaned passengers in Iowa annually and is forecasted to grow exponentially over the next 15-20 years, making its capital improvement projects critical to the state.

With an economic impact of $752 million, Des Moines International Airport operations include military and general aviation, large cargo operations, fixed base operators, two new flight instruction companies, rental car and vehicle parking operations.

With the passenger and air service growth at the Des Moines International Airport, a new terminal is critical to sustaining that growth. Aircraft parking positions are full during peak times, meaning the opportunity to add more service is limited to when parking positions are open throughout the day, making the growth of new airlines and new destinations difficult. To remain an economic engine and quality of life enhancer for the state, the Des Moines Airport Authority is designing a new terminal while working to close the funding gap to start construction as early as fall 2023.

The new terminal will lift the passenger experience, enable growth opportunities and improve safety and efficiency. The terminal project isn’t merely a project we want, but a project the state’s economy needs. The impact of aviation in Iowa is clear and the Des Moines International Airport is proud to be the capital city airport serving more Iowans than any other. Commercial service airports act as economic hubs for the state of Iowa while enhancing the quality of life for our residents; therefore, they are and continue to be an important asset worth investing in.

Those yearning to know more about aviation's impact on the state of Iowa are encouraged to read the full Iowa Aviation Economic Impact Report.

Throughout Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 10-county region, a thriving economic environment is attracting more Investors to do business. Learn more about other recent development projects in the region.

Kayla Kovarna

Kayla Kovarna is the Deputy Director of Communications, Marketing and Air Service Development for the Des Moines Airport Authority. She leads efforts to expand air service to and from Iowa, including new routes and airlines, and manages all airport communications functions.