Study: GR’s Ford Airport generates $7.7 billion a year in economic activity

GRAND RAPIDS–Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, in partnership with Grand Valley State University, unveiled a new economic impact study showing nearly $8 billion a year in economic benefit.

The study assessed the Airport’s role in driving growth in the 13-county West Michigan region. Results showed the Airport annually supports or contributes:

* 40,324 jobs
* $7.7 billion in economic activity
* $10.3 million in fiscal impact
* $1.3 billion in catalytic impact on household income

“The airport is pivotal in facilitating economic growth and enhancing our community’s vitality,” said Ford International Airport Authority Board Chair Dan Koorndyk. “Through our diligent and intentional efforts, we have more than doubled our economic impact since our last study was conducted in 2015 and are on track to reach our goal of $10 billion in economic activity by 2030.”

Airport visitors spend $637 million annually in western Michigan, or an average of $161 per person. When visiting western Michigan, visitors stayed an average of 4.43 days. Airport construction activity has also been significant, supporting an average of 328 construction jobs each year over the last five years.

“As the gateway for western Michigan, maintaining connectivity is essential as it provides community partners with resources to stimulate job growth and support residents’ livelihoods,” said Ford International Airport Authority President and CEO Tory Richardson. “The airport serves the fastest-growing region in the state, so it’s imperative we continuously adapt and expand services to meet the needs of our community. This ensures our area remains competitive nationally in attracting talent, businesses, tourism and more to further foster a vibrant regional economy.”

The airport is currently undergoing a $600 million capital expansion program known as Elevate, aimed at enhancing guest experience and positioning the Airport for continued growth. Projects include:

* Expansion of Concourse A, including eight new gates, concession and retail options and modern amenities.
* Construction of Michigan’s first consolidated rental car building.
* Expansion of the terminal curb front to accommodate a checked baggage inspection system.
* A federal inspection station to support nonstop international commercial flights.
* Relocation of the air traffic control tower to accommodate additional developments.
* Addition of a North Lot parking garage.

To date, the Airport has invested a total of $205 million in Elevate projects.

“Gerald R. Ford International Airport has a vital role in facilitating air travel for the West Michigan region,” said Christian Glupker, clinical affiliate professor of economics at Grand Valley State, who led the study. “However, that is not the only role the airport has in the local region. The airport is also an economic engine to the local economy, by generating $7.7 billion in economic activity, supporting 40,324 jobs and a $10.3 million fiscal impact.”

The airport served almost 4 million passengers in 2023 and is ranked as one of the fastest-growing airports in the U.S. by the Federal Aviation Administration. It was recently named the best small airport in the country by USA Today.

To download the full report, visit

Photo above via Wikimedia Commons by user dsearls,


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