GSP's effect on Upstate economy approaches $3B.

PositionGreenville-Spartanburg International Airport

Even the captain of the ship is surprised sometimes to find out how far it has traveled.

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport CEO Dave Edwards was expecting a new study of GSP's economic impact to show a leap, even a giant leap, since the last two studies in 2009 and 2012. But he wasn't ready for an impact eight times larger than it was in 2009.

"Back in 2012 I thought we would be over a billion (dollars) but I've got to say I was a little surprised," Edwards said. "It kind of knocked me out of my seat."

The number that did the knocking was $2.9 billion for 2017, compared to $377 million in 2009. That's a $2.9 billion impact on the Upstate's economy, according to a study by Syneva Economics, based in Asheville, N.C. Syneva, which also conducted the 2009 and 2012 studies, used information from the 2017 calendar year. The study tracked airport district operations, air cargo, fixed-base operator services, commercial development and visiting airline passengers, according to information in the report.

The study surveyed GSP's involvement in commercial development, the GSP International Logistics Park, as well as air cargo and passenger services, which have all significantly increased at GSP in recent years.

The study cast a wider geographic net this time, considering the airport's influence on six counties: Anderson, Greenville, Laurens, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union. The 2009 and 2012 studies looked at only Greenville and Spartanburg counties, but Edwards said the wider geographical look had less impact than growth in cargo business and development of the commercial park on airport property. Both of those enterprises were in their infancy for the 2012 study.

The level of impact "makes sense, but I hadn't really thought it through," Edwards said. "We value, for example, two flights to Europe at $50 million (in economic impact) and now we are at six scheduled flights a week. And while we're pretty much committed to six, we also see it ebb and flow up to eight, nine, 10 flights some weeks."

In 2017, the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District began Cerulean Aviation to provide fixed-base operator services and to continue providing air cargo support. Since then, GSP's cargo numbers have increased nearly 39%.

In fiscal year 2018, Cerulean supported more than 1,200 cargo flights including scheduled flights to Europe and Mexico. To meet growing demand, GSP will open new cargo facilities in 2019, including a 110,000-square-foot warehouse and a...

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