NCDOT: Airport contributes $25.6 million to economy

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

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Washington-Warren Airport (KOCW) contributes $25.6 million to the state’s economy each year, according to a report released by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation.

KOCW’s share is part of more than $72 billion contributed by North Carolina’s 72 publicly owned airports, which support nearly 330,000 jobs and make up 11 percent of the state’s total economic output, according to the NCDOT.

“North Carolina’s aviation system continues driving the economy by connecting people, companies and communities to markets and destinations worldwide,” said Bobby Walston, director of NCDOT’s Division of Aviation.

Washington-Warren Airport supports 150 jobs, personal income of $8.5 million and contributes $757,000 in state and local taxes, according to the report.

NCDOT releases the report, “North Carolina: The State of Aviation,” every two years to “help guide future investment in aviation infrastructure and provide a tool for recruiting aviation and aerospace industry companies and investment.”

KOCW is one of 62 general aviation airports in North Carolina’s public airport system, which includes 10 commercial service airports, including Pitt-Greenville (PGV) and New Bern’s Coastal Carolina Regional (EWN).

“All airports generate significant economic return for their communities and the state,” according to an NCDOT release accompanying the report. “For instance, North Carolina’s public airports lease space to more than 4,000 private aircraft that generate more than $5.6 million in property tax revenues for their communities each year.”

Coastal Carolina Regional supports 2,465 jobs and contributes an economic output of more than $512 million, according to the report. Pitt-Greenville supports 1,225 jobs and contributes an economic output of more than $266 million.

Passenger service at the state’s commercial airports rebounded in 2021 to nearly 80 percent of the state’s pre-pandemic traffic count in 2019, the study found.

North Carolina’s commercial service and general aviation airports combined to transport nearly 60 million travelers and moved 1.3 million tons of cargo in 2021.

The report touts partnerships with uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS or drones) as an important step in developing a “complex system of infrastructure and regulation.”

“North Carolina, at the forefront of developing such a system since 2014, continues to achieve significant advances in drone use for business and government purposes.”

Among the state’s 17 N.C. Beyond partners is Xelevate, a company that announced this summer its plans to make Washington-Warren Airport the first “drone-smart” airport on the East Coast through integration of its Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence.

Xelevate plans to build at KOCW a drone workforce and data fusion center for training, STEM education, job fairs, demonstrations, conferences and symposiums.

State Rep. Keith Kidwell, who helped secure a $20 million allocation from the NC General Assembly to support economic development at the airport, said partnerships like those with Xelevate will help promote economic growth in Beaufort County.

“We’re talking potentially into the hundreds, maybe even a thousand jobs over the next several years,” Kidwell said at the Washington-Warren Aiport’s Air and Drone Show held Dec. 17.

North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education compiled and analyzed data for the NCDOT report.

The full report is available online at