By staff writer

February 2019

In an economic environment characterized by growth and prosperity, airports play a significant role. Florida is home to more than 100 public airports, and the aviation sector has an estimated impact of $144.0 billion annually. The City of Orlando is a key player in the industry, being one of the most visited destinations in the world and home to the second-busiest airport in the state.

But what are the region’s smaller airports doing to keep up with the growth in the area? Invest: Orlando spoke with several leaders in the industry to find out. The overwhelming response from our interviewees is that smaller airports are reinventing themselves, embarking on expansions and attracting a diverse array of companies in an effort to keep up with Orlando’s continued growth.

The Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is undergoing an expansion project that should be complete in the fourth quarter of 2020. “We are continuing to grow, and we know that maybe 10 years down the road we will need a new terminal, but we wanted something that would facilitate our growth in the meantime, so we are adding four new gates,” Diane Crews, president and CEO of SFB, told Invest:.

According to a report from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Aviation and Spaceports Office, SFB’s direct economic impact in 2014 was about $1.1 billion, and the indirect impact was $646,000. The airport also employs over 23,000 people.

The growth and prosperity in the area has brought a change in the profile of the typical traveler at SFB. “The Orlando Sanford International Airport has been used mostly for leisure travel, especially because our flights do not have the frequency that business travelers need,” Crews said. “That is starting to change. We are seeing more business travel, and we are going to be working towards increasing that component of our operation.”

The Orlando region has five airports (including Orlando International Airport [MCO] and SFB) with more than 175 nonstop destinations around the world. One of these hubs is the Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM), located in Osceola County approximately 25 miles south of downtown Orlando.

ISM is looking to attract more aerospace and aviation companies, and the City of Kissimmee created the Aerospace Advancement Initiative to support that goal. ISM accommodates general aviation air service 24 hours a day, as well as flight training schools, box hangars, new T-hangars and a variety of recreational activities. It also employs over 1,000 people and has a $45.8 million direct economic impact and $22.1 million indirect impact, according to a report from FDOT’s Aviation and Spaceports Office.

As a result of the Aerospace Advancement Initiative, the aerospace firm Know 2 Solutions, which connects aircrafts through satellite communications hardware and services, landed its headquarters in the ISM last year.

Terry Lloyd, director of aviation at ISM, told Invest: about other highlights the airport saw in 2018 that underscore the growth it is experiencing. “In 2018 we stood up a high school on the airport property, which is a great benefit for the local community. One of our flight training businesses added a full-motion simulator. We have a lot of flight training.” Lloyd also pointed out that the airport attracts people from overseas and domestic locations and trains them to be professional pilots.

Last year the Orlando International Airport remained the busiest airport in the state of Florida, with a record 47.7 million annual passengers. The Sanford airport saw a record of 3 million passengers in 2018.

“If you’re looking at investing in Orlando, Orange County and the City of Kissimmee are business friendly and very proactive,” said Lloyd. “We provide training for some of our residents; when they graduate from high school they can get career education at their local airport, and it results in fairly high-paid jobs. We are kind of training our own workforce here for anybody who wants to come in on the education side and invest.”

The amount of visitors arriving to the Greater Orlando area is expected to go up in 2019, and airport officials, government leaders and related industries are all working to keep up with the projected growth in the area. Invest: Orlando is excited to see what’s in store for the aviation sector in 2019 and beyond!

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:

Orlando Sanford International Airport:

Kissimmee Gateway Airport: