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Economic Development
Feb 21, 2014

"Do I Pay For The Airport?" An Overview Of How ILM Operates In And Affects The Wilmington Community

Sponsored Content provided by Jon Rosborough - Airport Director, ILM

When you think about the airport, you might think of the many flights you’ve taken, those famous green rocking chairs, or the times you’ve shared picking up family and friends who’ve come to visit.  The airport is many things to many people, but do you know how it works?  Do you know how the many parts function together to make the well-oiled machine?  ILM is not only a key economic player in New Hanover County, but also to all of Southeastern North Carolina.  Our mission has always been “To provide quality regional air transportation services…” and there are several key components that make ILM a relaxing, convenient, friendlier way to travel. 

ILM is the main gateway to and from Southeastern North Carolina.  Comprised of 1800 acres, the airport has 2 intersecting runways, 2 commercial airlines, and an average of 23 daily flights.  As part of the air transportation system, ILM falls under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rules and regulations.  ILM is the 4th largest airport in North Carolina with over 800,000 annual passengers on more than 52,560 aircraft.  While 52,560 planes may sound like a lot, not all of them carry commercial passengers.  In addition to commercial aircraft, ILM also handles private and corporate planes (General Aviation planes), Air Cargo planes, and military planes.  Our market area or catchment area is derived from 5 counties directly,  8.5 counties indirectly.  It is our pleasure to provide these services to the people of our community.         

As you can see, the airport is always buzzing with activity.  All of this activity does not come without a cost, however.  ILM operates on a balanced operating budget of $7M, none of which comes from New Hanover County’s tax payers’ dollars.  This $7M is derived from revenue generated by the following:  parking lot, aviation, rental car, food & beverage concessions, etc.  75% of our total operating budget comes from the parking, aviation, and rental car revenue.  In addition to the operating budget, we are able to complete capital projects through federal grant funds awarded by the FAA.  This is how we complete upgrades to the terminal building, runway renovations, or expansion plans.  These grant funds, again, do not come from the tax payers’ dollar directly.  Each time you buy a plane ticket, 7.5% goes to an Airport and Airway Trust Fund.  The airport applies for grants for Airport Improvement Projects (AIP) from this fund, provided by passengers who fly.  In 2012-2013 alone, ILM made $8.9M in facility improvements, which included a 750’ runway extension, LED taxiway lights (our pilots love them), a new passenger boarding bridge, and more.  Over the past 13 years, capital projects have totaled over $90M.  These renovation/expansion projects help ILM recruit new non-stop cities and new air carriers. 

Because of all of the activity at ILM, you might wonder who keeps the ball rolling non-stop.  ILM leases property from New Hanover County and is governed by an independent and autonomous Airport Authority, members by which are appointed by our County Commissioners.  In addition to the members of the airport authority, we have 45 full-time employees that encompass our administrative, maintenance, and public safety staff. 

William H. Williams, Jr., previous Director of Aviation for the NCDOT once said, "Build 50 miles of road and you can get to the next county.  Build one mile of runway and you’ll have access to the entire world."  It has been estimated that ILM has an economic impact of $641,463,200 to our community.  The airport helps to provide 3,483 jobs and $184,069,900 in payroll dollars.  Furthermore, ILM helps to contribute $653,200 back to the county in the form of property taxes.  Our mission statement concludes, “…a professional public-private partnership dedicated to meeting and exceeding customer expectations.”  Our aim is that through this partnership, we will grow ILM together to create a regional airport that serves this community with many different types of aeronautical activity.  We are so proud to not only be a gateway to this region, but also an integral part of the economic development of Southeastern North Carolina. 

Jon Rosborough became director of the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) in November of 1998.  As the fourth largest airport in North Carolina, ILM serves over 800,000 passengers annually and offers service on both Delta Airlines and US Airways/American Airlines, ILM services 4 non-stop hubs which allow for convenient domestic and international travel. ILM prides itself on offering award winning customer service and convenience with multiple flight options, easy security screening, and close parking.  For more information about ILM, please visit, like us on, or follow us on Twitter at

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