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Getting Trenton/Mercer Airport to help region take off

The Trenton/Mercer Airport has the potential to become an economic jewel for the entire region. For too long, in my estimation, we've allowed this gemstone to dull due to underutilization. With the strategic business plan of Frontier Airlines, the development plans of Ewing Township and the demonstrated commitment of the administration of Brian Hughes at the county, the chances of success for the airport to evolve into a vital part of our state's economic future have never shined so brightly.

First, let's take a look at airports as economic generators. According to a study by CDM Smith, in 2010 airports in the U.S. directly employed 1.3 million people. Visitor activity at U.S. airports created 3.6 million jobs. Adding the multiplier effect of the economic impact of airports, we find that airports employ 10.5 million people with an annual payroll of $365 billion and output of 1.2 trillion. In New Jersey 231,000 jobs are created by our airports with an annual payroll of over $9 billion. Over $31 billion of annual economic output is generated by New Jersey commercial airports. The FAA forecasts that Trenton/Mercer will be serving 11 million people by 2025, and the FAA also projects that by 2025 air travel will increase by 50 percent. They believe that investments in smaller regional airports such as Trenton/Mercer will relieve pressure on larger airports like Newark and Philadelphia and enhance local economies.

There are about 4 million people within a 30 to 40 minute drive time from Trenton/Mercer airport. We have easy access from every major highway between Philadelphia and New York, and parking is far more economical than at those airports. We have good public transportation alternatives on site or within close proximity of the airport. Frontier Airlines now offers a number of flights at competitive prices to popular destinations. The growth projections in air travel, easy access to the airport and competitive pricing positions Trenton/Mercer well to take advantage of a growing industry.

In Ewing Township, where the airport is located, Mayor Bert Steinmann is developing a plan to redevelop the old General Motors and Navy jet propulsion sites into a vibrant mixed-use commercial/retail development. This plan alone will enhance the West Trenton portion of Ewing Township dramatically — but combined with the potential of the airport it becomes a rare gemstone. By repositioning the air terminal from its current location to one adjacent to the Navy site, the development will serve as a transportation hub, connecting air, rail and vehicular transportation services for millions of people. This hub offers "economic fortification." The activity generated by the transportation center and the personnel necessary to support travel and tourism reinforces the business of the commercial and retail developments at the site. This is a natural convergence of economic forces — producing a great opportunity. That gemstone is starting to shine now!

The county has also recently shared plans to develop parts of the airport property into commercial and industrial niche locations — showcasing high tech and emerging growth industries. The airport is a valuable element in that economic infrastructure. Workforce talent is an essential quality an area must offer to attract these industries. The Mid-Jersey region is rich in this talent — but now we also have the means to provide air transportation to an ever mobile talent pool from those industries.

The MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce supports the Hughes administration and Steinman in their efforts to bring this opportunity to fruition. We encourage the support of these economic "jewels" so they shine brighter and more brilliant in the future.

Robert D. Prunetti, president & CEO
MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce

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