Ontario CA Airport could bring more jobs to the Inland Empire region

What does a thriving Ontario International Airport mean to the Inland Empire’s economy? It’s a question many economists and officials have asked as ONT’s passenger traffic dwindled by 32 percent from 2007 and 2010.

Jan Brueckner, who wrote a report in 2003 on airline traffic, attempted to answer just that. His findings: There are significant employment effects to increasing airline traffic at Ontario. If you raise airline traffic in an airport by 10 percent, it will lead to a 1 percent increase in service-related employment.

The effects of increased airline services are felt mainly in service-related industries such as law firms, consulting companies, advertising — firms that value connectedness, said Brueckner, a professor of economics at UC Irvine.

What does this mean for ONT?

If the new airport authority took proactive steps to raise traffic by 10 percent, it would result in 360,000 new passengers and generate 6,640 service employment jobs in the Inland Empire, not including the Coachella Valley, Brueckner said.

“That’s a pretty sizable amount of jobs from a relatively small rebound in traffic at Ontario,” he said during a conference friday in Claremont on the airport’s future.

If there were a 30 percent increase in passengers, it would lead to 20,000 new service jobs, Brueckner said.

His research has shown that most of the drop in passenger traffic can be attributed to the recession. After 2010, traffic continued to decline slowly. In the last two years, traffic has gradually increased.

“With the transfer of the airport … it appears that there’s greater scope for proactive steps to increase the airport’s traffic,” Brueckner said.

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