The new Salt Lake City International Airport’s construction costs of $2.9 billion will boost the local economy by $5.5 billion — including creating an average of 3,319 jobs a year, a new study says.

That study is “measuring the ripple effect” of every dollar spent on construction as it passes through the economy, Christine Richman, director of planning and economic development for GSBS Consulting, told the Airport Advisory Board on Wednesday.

That includes “paying workers wages, and then they go out and spend in the economy on groceries, housing, clothing and services,” she said. It also looks at extra spending with industries supplying goods and services to the vast project.

The new study was not asked to look at the additional benefits of a big airport bringing visitors and business to the state. But those “are probably very much larger than the construction benefit,” Richman said.

Salt Lake City is building a replacement airport adjacent to the existing facility, without interrupting ongoing operations. The first phase is scheduled to open in late 2020, with a later phase coming on line in 2023 or 2024.

The total project is estimated to cost $3.6 billion, with construction costs at $2.9 billion (not including such things as architecture, engineering, art and furnishings).

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)


The airport ordered an economic impact analysis five years ago on the first phase of construction. It said that phase’s $1.6 billion in construction costs would bring an economic impact of $3.02 billion and create 1,993 jobs annually.

Since then, the city decided also to build part of an additional concourse. So the new study says the revised overall construction spending of $2.9 billion would bring economic impacts of $5.5 billion.

Construction will create an average of 2,001 jobs a year for people working directly at the airport, the study says. Another 443 jobs will come from other industries providing goods and services for the project, and 885 more jobs from the economywide impact of spending by project workers.

Overall, that means an extra 3,319 jobs a year, the study said, with $165 million in wages and income.

For the full 12- to 13-year span of the project, the study said construction spending will create 43,148 full-time jobs and $2.1 billion in wages and income.

Those are only the local impacts of the project, Richman said. It actually is boosting the economy of other states also because many of the contractors and workers are from out of state.

Mike Williams, airport redevelopment project manager, said that of the $1.5 billion in contracts awarded for the project so far, about $1 billion were won by local firms.

The new airport will replace 50-year-old facilities that were designed to handle about 10 million passengers a year — while the airport now handles about 26 million annually.

When the full project is completed, the airport will have two new concourses connected by tunnels, a new central terminal, a new parking garage, an elevated roadway with separate levels to drop off and pick up passengers, a new car-rental facility and a new 3,000-space economy parking lot.

The study noted the project is funded by airline passenger facility fees, rental-car fees, federal grants and savings by the airport — not by local property or sales taxes.

The Airport Advisory Board also heard updates Wednesday on choosing retail and food vendors for the new facility, issuing perhaps $1 billion in bonds for financing, and seeking more international flights that new facilities can handle.

Airport Director Bill Wyatt said officials have completed scoring the bids for first-phase retailers and are trying to execute contracts with the winners. He said they also are nearly finished scoring bids for food and beverage vendors.

“You, the city and the community, will be really excited [about] the winners” when they are announced, Wyatt told the board. He said the new facility will have about 70 percent more retail and food vendors than currently, and will “accommodate the volume of offerings that our passenger volume would ordinarily suggest.”

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Bill Wyatt, Salt Lake City International Airport director (right) tours the airport expansion construction site, Wednesday, August 1, 2018. The first phase construction of the $3.6 billion project is hitting the halfway mark — and large new buildings and elevated roadways are more easily seen. Nearing completion is the new concourse for aircraft gates, an enclosed terminal, the steel skeleton of a new "gateway" building, a five-story parking garage and elevated roadways.

Wyatt was traveling to New York later Wednesday to work on issuing between $800,000 and $1.2 billion worth of revenue bonds to help finance construction.

He noted that in recent years the airport had not actively sought many new international flights — mainly because it did not have gates to handle them. The new airport will allow more of them, so he said the airport has been actively marketing that possibility to airlines.

He said the airport has especially been seeking direct flights to Asia, which it now lacks.

Federal officials are considering using a new system in the rebuilt airport that could speed passengers arriving from abroad through customs, Wyatt said. That system would use facial-recognition programs to match them and their passport from when they checked in from the flight, and simply wave them through customs after they pick up baggage.