If Paulding County's airport goes commercial and launches airline flights, it could help drive the creation of 55 jobs in the county in the first year, according to an economic impact study commissioned by the county's chamber of commerce.
The study estimated a total of 119 jobs driven by commercial service at Paulding in the first year, including jobs driven by visitor spending.
As a bedroom community, Paulding has few large employers. County officials have supported the idea of commercializing Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, against the opposition of some residents, because of the promise of jobs.
The report prepared by InterVISTAS Consulting for the Paulding Chamber based the job figures on the premise of Allegiant Air starting a route to Florida with two flights a week in the first year.
The Paulding Chamber will “use [the report] as an economic development guide for tourism,” president Carolyn Wright said.
Propeller Airports, a private firm that has partnered with the airport authority to develop and commercialize the airport, has said it expects to create 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs over the next decade. That's in part driven by the idea of attracting aviation businesses to the airport property, such as aircraft manufacturers or maintenance facilities.
Sue Wilkins, a Paulding resident who opposes the commercialization of the airport and is a plaintiff in legal challenges to the project, said on the chamber's economic impact study that she thinks "there are a lot of issues not factored into the study."
"However, I appreciate its honesty about the employment numbers. Claims of 55 employees is a far cry" from the thousands of jobs promised, Wilkins said.
The job estimates for airport activity and visitor spending include "indirect" and "induced" economic activity measured using economic multipliers.
The economic impact study compared Paulding to other small airports served by Allegiant that are also near large hubs, including Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, St. Cloud Regional Airport near Minneapolis and Concord Regional Airport near Charlotte, N.C.
Shortly before Paulding announced its plans in 2013 to commercialize the airport, Allegiant wrote a letter of intent on plans to start flights from Paulding. Allegiant is a low-cost carrier based in Las Vegas and was considering flying two round trips per week from Paulding to the Orlando area’s Sanford International Airport, catering to leisure travelers -- but no service has been announced yet.
In Paulding, the majority of passengers would likely be area residents traveling to Florida for vacation. But 10 to 20 percent could be visitors to the Paulding area, according to the study.
The study also said the LakePoint Sporting Community in Bartow County and the Braves stadium under construction in Cobb County could drive charter flights.