Michael Zimmer had a choice to make last fall.
The president of Cyril Bath Co. could either expand his aerospace operations at the company’s Monroe site or move that work to Charleston, S.C., to be closer to Boeing, a major client.
He decided to stay put.
In October, Cyril Bath announced it was investing $2.5 million in new equipment and building improvements at its facility across from the Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport. The project helped retain the company’s 45 jobs in Monroe, and the expansion is expected to result in another 10 jobs over the next few years.
That impact on the local economy is just the type of activity highlighted by a recent study for the state Department of Transportation by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at N.C. State University.
The study found that the 10 general aviation airports in the Charlotte area had a combined economic impact of $491 million – and were tied to more than 4,000 jobs.
It estimated that Monroe’s airport had an annual economic impact of nearly $22.3 million, was directly or indirectly responsible for 150 jobs, and generated $571,000 in state and local taxes.
Those numbers represent a conservative tally since they are partly dependent on survey responses from airport tenants and major users. If a company did not respond, it was not factored into the estimates.
Chris Platé, Monroe’s executive director of economic development and aviation, said he hopes the report will open people’s eyes to the impact the airport – and others in the region – have on the community. Some of the airport’s growth, Platé said, has been from people or companies not based here, but who use the airport when they fly in and out of the area on business.
Zimmer is familiar with the convenience.
“One big part of our decision to remain here is that Monroe’s airport is right behind our factory,” Zimmer said, “and we’re able to fly in and out of here on a regular basis.”
Supporting aerospace companies like Cyril Bath is a natural fit for the airport, especially since Monroe has the highest geographic concentration of aerospace companies in North Carolina.
Bobby Walston, deputy director of airports for N.C. DOT’s Division of Aviation, said the state is well aware of the importance that industry plays in bolstering airports like Monroe’s.
“It’s huge for them,” he said.
In fact, while highlighting the economic impact study, the state also touted Monroe and a few other airports as thriving “aerotropolises,” places where aerospace companies help boost the local economy.
The airport also raises its profile through the popular Warbirds Over Monroe air show, one of the biggest shows of its kind on the East Coast.
The annual air show helps diversify the business at the airport, Platé said, emphasizing that it is not dependent on just aerospace to keep it humming. Flight schools and business travelers also use the airport, among other groups, he said.
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