Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will undergo a significant expansion from Continental Airlines. The plans are accompanied by the anticipation of escalating profits, increased transit capacity, and a slew of new jobs that will bolster the Cleveland economy.
Continental Airlines, Governor Ted Strickland and Mayor Frank Jackson announced that a $50 million expansion was under way, as well as a capacity increase through the next two years.
“Continental Airlines is making a significant investment in the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport,” said Jackson. “This strategic investment is designed to maximize Cleveland’s assets, create a positive environment for business, and serve as a vehicle for tourism to the entire Cleveland Plus region.”
The investment will be funded, in part, by the state of Ohio, which has promised $16 million from a combination of sources such as tax credits, grants and loans.
State officials used this money as a financial incentive for Continental Airlines in order to attract the business expansion to Cleveland, rather than to other possible candidates such as Newark, NJ, or Houston, TX, where the airline is based.
The expected changes include the addition of 50, mostly regional flights, and 20 nonstop destinations by this summer. In the year following that, there will be several additional mainline flights added to expand the global route network, according to The Associated Press.Also, new ticketing and passenger reception areas will be added.
“I think it’s a good thing overall because it provides an improvement in transportation both to and from Cleveland,” said Thomas Zlatoper, professor of economics and finance at John Carroll University. “By making it more convenient to come to Cleveland, it should enhance our area’s image elsewhere.”
Cleveland is Continental Airline’s Midwestern base, currently employing about 2,000 people. Along with the approval of a 10-year tax credit for Continental in July, the whole proposed project can be expected to add 711 full-time Ohio jobs. With the tax credit, the jobs would pay $24.76 per hour on average, beginning in January.
The credit would be conditional to the maintenance of Continental’s extra operations for 20 years.
“Obviously, we’ll see more people working,” said Dennis Roche, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, according to The Plain Dealer. “It also makes us more attractive as a destination because we’ll be more accessible. It’s one good thing layered on another.”
Christopher Rodgers, the director of strategic development at Erie International Airport said, “When a hub grows, it is good for all the spokes that feed into it.. When a hub gets bigger, it creates additional connecting opportunities.”
These connecting opportunities include the possibility of the Erie airport being linked to the New York market. They have long wanted to be connected to bigger ports such as the Continental Branch in Newark.
However, Newark’s airport has always had too much traffic to take on more routes.
The Cleveland port’s expansion will likely be the thing to relieve Newark traffic so that Newark will add more routes and expand to the Erie port.
It will mean an overall expansion of business to affected ports because the increased capacity in the Cleveland area will be better able to satisfy the demand for flight connections.