While general aviation in New Jersey continues to grow, the state needs to attract more businesses to remain competitive, industry officials said today at Teterboro Airport during a regional forum that drew more than 2,400 attendees.
"We're at a point in our state where corporations and aviation really matters. Demand for general aviation is fixed on a statewide basis, so we have to steal business from other states to grow aviation," New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said. "If we have jobs, we'll have the aviation. … There would be no aviation but for business."
Simpson said retaining companies that will utilize general aviation airports — like Realogy Corp., which will continue to use services at the Morristown Municipal Airport, in Hanover, when it relocates its corporate headquarters to Madison — is key to growing the industry.
According to Susan Baer, director of aviation at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, each business jet equates to $1 million in economic activity and five new jobs in the region, and the Port Authority's five airports — which will handle more than 109 million passengers this year — generate $5 million for the regional economy every 45 minutes.
Teterboro Airport manager Renee Span said the airport has grown to become one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country, ending 2011 with 152,000 flights.
Simpson said "boneheaded decisions" at the state and local government level have wasted funds that could have been better invested in the general aviation industry. He noted that, at one point, New Jersey "almost put its flight school in Princeton out of business."
Simpson said he is now working with First Aviation President and CEO Bill Thomas to "navigate the bureaucracy" of the state's Department of Environmental Protection to expand Teterboro Airport.
"At the end of this year — unless Congress takes action — is the biggest cut in the nation's defense budget, and the biggest tax increase," said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, which sponsored the event. "We're facing a $100 per-flight fee and an extended depreciation schedule for general aviation airplanes. This is an industry that's a positive and should be promoted, not a negative that should be taxed."