Study: Willow Run generates $123M for Michigan economy

Leonard N. Fleming

Ypsilanti — Willow Run Airport, which does most of its business in air cargo and freight, generates $123 million annually for the state’s economy, according to an impact study made public Tuesday.

The airport, in Ypsilanti, has created more than 950 jobs and has become an attractive venue for business with growth in cargo shipment all over the world, the study said.

The $35,000 study was commissioned by the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the Wayne County Airport Authority and comes more than a year after a similar study was done in 2014 about Metro Airport’s $10.2 billion economic impact in the state.

Thomas Naughton, the CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority which runs both airports, said the study illustrates to the public the role the airports play in delivering goods and services and helping to create jobs.

“That’s the value of the airport, to support the business community in making those connections to allow business people here to either fly out and sell Michigan goods and products around the world or have individuals fly in to purchase Michigan goods or products,” Naughton said. “From our perspective, the more connectivity we can provide, the better for the region.”

Lee Redding, the associate professor of business economics at UM-Dearborn, who was part of the study, said cargo traffic has made Willow Run a more attractive place for business.”

Airport officials have long seen the combination of Metro and Willow Run airports as helping the region become a transportation and logistical hub. And they are still hoping that the former Aerotropolis project now known as VantagePort takes off and brings even more commerce to the region.

“The bottom line is logistics are really critical for this region and the airports are part of that multi-modal chain,” said Joseph Nardone, the authority’s vice president of business development and real estate division.

Christopher Mullin, the director of Willow Run, said the airport has 34 tenants.

Currently, at least 54 million pounds of cargo leaves the airport annually that officials believe represent $2 billion in goods and services.

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