The Power In Planes: How Regional Air Travel Affects Local Real Estate And Economic Growth

Brian is the leading Sotheby’s agent in Oregon, selling over $100,000,000 annually and a fourth-generation builder, developer and broker.

There’s nothing quite like flying — getting from where you are to where you need to be in miraculously fast fashion. And even though, for years, flying also involved driving hours to the nearest major airport, smaller local and regional airports have made flying an even speedier option for people living outside major cities across the country.

But local airports can do more than save travelers time. They can also contribute to strong economies and create opportunities for real estate agents to become leaders in their communities.

I speak about the value of a local airport from experience. Thanks to the Redmond Municipal Airport near my home in Bend, Oregon, not only can I get where I need to go faster, but businesses can also do their work more easily here.

Take San Francisco, for example. I can make it to downtown San Francisco from my house in Bend nearly as fast as someone who lives in the Bay area. I drive 20 minutes to the airport, arrive 40 minutes before my flight, spend two minutes in a speedy security line (another benefit of small airports) and board a roughly 70-minute flight to SFO. That’s a total of just over two hours, potentially faster than someone driving from 60 miles away in rush hour could make it to the city, especially if they’re trying to cross the Golden Gate or Bay bridges.

Research supports the theory that easy access to air travel makes cities more attractive to businesses large and small, which in turn creates additional demand growth in housing. According to the Regional Airline Association’s 2019 annual report, 570 airports in smaller communities drive $134 billion per year in economic activity for those communities, create a million jobs and generate $36 billion in wages and tax revenue. And with 41% of scheduled passenger departures being serviced by regional airlines, it’s clear that people use flights from smaller airports when given the opportunity.

But knowing how useful a robust small airport would be is only the beginning of the battle. Much like recruiting high-quality physicians to smaller cities and more rural areas of the country, attracting airlines to those places can be tough.

So, how could a smaller city with a relatively low population convince airlines to run direct flights to and from its airport? Persistence, clarity about the need for more flights and the ability to show that the economy is robust. It can be a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation: More available flights add to economic growth. Recent and continuing economic growth is an obvious attraction for airlines. Cities trying to recruit airlines should seek partnership with a local business organization (area chambers of commerce, for example) to show economic stability and that local businesses are interested in using local airline service.

I encourage real estate professionals to get involved in this process, which is usually driven by chambers of commerce, development councils and regional government. Your engagement in this process can put you at the leading edge of economic and housing growth in your market, plus provide a greater relocation incentive for homebuyers, potentially creating for you a new avenue for business.

A robust business climate, of course, can’t be earned with just one change such as this. But certainly, being able to offer fast, reliable air service to businesses in the area has the power to bolster economic growth in even smaller communities.


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *