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Research Report
Eller MBAs Find Economic Impact of Tucson International Airport Tops $3.2 Billion

Tucson International Airport
Tucson International Airport.
Photo courtesy Abacus.

By Liz Warren-Pederson

A new study conducted by Eller MBA students shows Tucson International Airport brings an annual economic impact of more than $3.2 billion to the region.

The study was commissioned by the Tucson Airport Authority and managed through the Eller MBA experiential learning program.

“We knew that the airport had a significant impact on Pima County, but none of us guessed how large the impact would ultimately be,” said Catherine Weigand, Eller MBA ‘13. “We were excited to share the results with the community.”

The airport’s direct, indirect, and induced economic effects are included in the $3.2 billion total. Direct impact is generated by employment and operation of the airport and tenant businesses. The Eller MBA team calculated a total annual direct impact of $1.7 billion stemming from payroll, goods and services purchased by the airport and airport businesses, expenditures on capital improvement projects, and payment of local taxes from airport activity. The remaining $1.5 billion is attributed to indirect and induced impacts.

“We worked with two excellent sponsors, Mary Davis and Alex Kovach, but involvement did not stop with them,” Weigand said. “My team worked closely with the CFO and other staff members to conduct surveys and collect data from the tenants. It was great to work with a client who was excited about advancing our education and the deliverable that was attached to the project.”

The Eller MBA experiential learning program is the cornerstone of the first year, matching students with clients and challenging them to apply their core business knowledge to a real-world project. In addition to TAA, this year’s 12 clients also include Raytheon, Microsoft, and Intuit.

Tucson International Airport
Tucson International Airport concessions.
Photo courtesy Tucson Airport Authority.

“This project allowed us to apply our new abilities to a large project from start to finish,” added Greg Keller, Eller MBA ‘13. “It allowed the team and myself to be able to set real goals and accomplish them in the same way a consulting team does. This experience brings real-world experience to our education.”

The project also built skills that Weigand and Keller will apply on the job during their respective internships.

“I have an internship with Ford this summer in the finance department, and my project specifically deals with communication and IT systems,” Weigand said. “Project management, client communication, and managing large data sets are key skills that will help me be successful this summer.”

Keller will be working in Emerson Network Power’s strategic planning division. “Working with large datasets to compile information in ways that people can reasonably understand will translate directly to my summer internship,” Keller said. “Plus, setting up and presenting information in front of important clients will help me to perform well in larger settings.”

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