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Arizona Aviation Day flies high with economic impact numbers

A helicopter lands on the street outside the State Capitol as part of Tuesday's Arizona Aviation Day. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Sean Peick

PHOENIX - Number of jobs: 409,000.

Annual state and local tax revenue: $3 billion.

Total economic impact each year: $58 billion.

Those were some of the numbers that representatives of Arizona's aviation industry wanted state legislators to take away from Tuesday's eighth annual Arizona Aviation Day.

Jennifer Maples, the event's chairwoman and a past president of the Arizona Airports Association, said the reach of aviation extends from airports to companies making aircraft parts - even to the "toilet paper that's stocked in an airport restroom."

"It's a pretty significant economic engine," Maples said. "And then the communities that build up around airports, they grow, they thrive and they create a significant number of jobs."

Three helicopters lined the street in front of the Capitol and a hot air balloon basket shot flames into the air as lawmakers and other attendees mingled around displays on the lawn.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, former CEO of an aerospace manufacturing company in Prescott, said aviation is a huge and growing industry in Arizona.

"If folks don't realize the economic impact that all these different pieces of the economy have with each other, it's hard for them to get the big view," he said.

Organizers released a report saying that 16.8 percent of Arizona's jobs are connected directly or indirectly to aviation, with a total payroll of $21.1 billion. The economic impact includes money spent by the 45.2 million passengers traveling to or through Arizona's 83 airports, the report said.

Dee Anne Thomas, marketing and communications specialist at Mesa's Falcon Field, said that state funding plays a large role in her airport's ability to operate.

"Falcon Field does rely heavily on grants that we receive through the Arizona Department of Transportation for maintaining our infrastructure, which is vital to the safety of the airport and our ability to carry our business," she said.

David Gaines, airport director of Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport in Bullhead City, said that over the years the event has helped raise awareness at the Capitol about the value of aviation to Arizona.

"I think in the last probably five to six years, we've had a very, very good program to educate our legislators so that we don't have a lot of the problems we had eight, 10 years ago where aviation funds were being diverted for other uses," he said.

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