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The Tennessee Department of Transportation has completed a year-long economic impact study, finding Tennessee's public-use airports contribute $40 billion to the state's economy, including $910 million from Chattanooga's municipal airport at Lovell Field and $8.2 million in the Cleveland, Tennessee airport.

The study analyzed the economic impacts of on-airport activities, off-airport activities, multiplier impacts, and freight/cargo during 2019, the last full year before the pandemic limited most air traffic.

"Tennessee's 78 public-use airports are critical components of the state's transportation network, linking and providing access to regional, national, and global transportation systems," Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright said.

Examples of on-airport activities include economic impacts from business tenants, airport construction spending, and airport employment. Off-airport impacts include visitor spending, which the study said generated 69,965 jobs and $9 billion in business revenue across Tennessee in 2019. The analysis found that freight/cargo impacts generated 82,357 jobs, and $19 billion in business revenue.

"A safe, secure, efficient, and resilient aviation system is essential to our state's physical, economic, and social health," said Michelle Frazier, director of the Aeronautics Division of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

A federal travel warning about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic that came out in November 2020 broke a string of month-over-month boarding increases at Chattanooga Airport, according to airport officials in December. 

Airport boardings in October hit 22,559 passengers, which was Lovell Field's busiest month since the coronavirus pandemic sent the travel industry into a tailspin in March.

November boardings were 19,904, the airport reported. For the year through November, boardings were down 59.46% from the same time in 2019.

Still, airport officials expressed optimism about traffic returning in 2021 with the roll out of the coronavirus vaccine.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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