Airports in Missouri contribute to the economic backbone of the state. A Department of Transportation study estimates that the annual economic output of the state’s airport system is $11.1 billion. That probably is a surprise to some Missourians.

Many of us have known for a long time the importance of airports to the state’s economy.

It also may come as a surprise to some Missourians that the airports in the state have created more than 100,000 jobs with a payroll of $3.1 billion. The study examined nine commercial and 99 public-use airports that the Missouri Department of Transportation supports.

One of the interesting things that the study determined is that the economic contribution of Missouri’s airports grew 17.1 percent in the past decade despite the recession. The growth was fueled chiefly by an increase in business activity. That almost is the story of the Washington Regional Airport. It has become a business airport, with regular landings by corporate jets. The industries here have contributed to the airport’s growth. The fact we have an airport that can accommodate business jets is a plus in attracting industries and commercial businesses. The large commercial growth in Washington also has been a factor in the airport’s growth.

Washington can be proud of its airport, and with planned physical improvements, it will become an even more inviting asset. It is a well operated and maintained airport.

In economic development and job creation, the fact that this area is close to Lambert International Airport in St. Louis gives us an advantage. Many industries looking for a location mention that they must be within an hour of a major airport.

In 2012, the study said an estimated 6.2 million travelers arrived in Missouri via commercial airports, and more than 260,000 arrived on general aviation aircraft and used smaller airports around the state, such as Washington. Many of the travelers flew in and out of the state on business.

We should never underestimate the value of the Washington airport.