In addition to providing about 4,000 jobs and generating an economic impact of more than $600 million each year (based on a 1998 study), the airport strives to be sensitive to the needs of the local community in which it functions. Dane County Regional Airport values its public support and the numbers show that the community values the convenience, ease of travel, and economic strength that the airport provides.
Growing numbers of travelers and businesses in southcentral Wisconsin rely on the Dane County Regional Airport each day, making it a prominent part of the community and the region’s economy. Improvements to Dane County Regional Airport are a key component to our area's economic development.
DCRA plays a crucial role in the everyday economic and social life of Dane County. Nearly 6,500 workers are employed in the county as a direct result of airport operations and facilities use, ranking the airport as the third largest full-time employer in Dane County. Throughout the county, 3,200 more workers are employed due to the airport. This generates over $140 million in wages to airport-related workers in Dane County, with over $82 million in secondary wages paid to workers throughout the county. In 1998, the airport generated more than $223 million in personal income for Dane County residents.
The airport receives no local tax dollars. Airport funds are derived from airport operations. The primary tenants of the airport are the commercial airlines, which share the cost. They're followed by revenue sources that include parking revenues, terminal building rentals (rental car agencies, the restaurant and lounge, gift shop, etc.), and a host of airport property tenants.
Those airport property tenants are located in what Dane County Regional Airport calls its "AirPark," airport-owned land along the International Lane corridor to the west and along US Highway 51 to the east. Major tenants include Madison Area Technical College, Wisconsin Aviation, and Great Lakes Higher Education Corp.
In all, Dane County Regional Airport owns nearly 3,000 acres of land.
Why such large land holdings? The original airport built in 1938 covered about 300 acres, and it probably would have stayed that size for years. But then World War II broke out. The military purchased 2,000 more acres of land, and opened an enormous electronics training school. The federal government curtailed military operations here after the Korean War, donating all the airport's land to the city. The airport was a financial drain to the city. So the city willingly transferred the airport over to the county in 1974 to broaden the tax base since the airport was dependent upon tax revenues at that time. Within a few years after transfer to the county, it was able to operate without local tax dollars.