Kansas City, Mo. Developing 8,000 acres of vacant land surrounding Kansas City International Airport could produce between 90,000 and 250,000 new jobs, an economics professor says in a report released Tuesday.
John D. Kasarda, who authored the report, said he envisioned the nearly 11,000-acre airport area as an "aerotropolis," in which a cluster of business and industrial parks, distribution centers, hotels and shopping centers could be built around the airport.
For that to happen, millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements are needed, he said.
"Commerce is becoming more airport-driven, just like it was by trucks in the 20th century and railroads in the 19th century and through the waterways in the centuries before that," Kasarda said. "Your problem -- all this vacant space -- is actually your advantage."
Kasarda, director of the University of North Carolina's Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, discussed the study with the Kansas City Council's Aviation Committee and Platte County business leaders Tuesday.
The report recommends spending $30 million on infrastructure improvements and between $24 million and $30 million to construct a seven-mile railroad spur connected to an existing railroad.
"Right now, this property is inaccessible, and that means the area will not develop," Kasarda said.
His report proposes a business district be formed within the airport property, serving as a blueprint for planned hotel, retail, office and industrial uses.
The business district also would include a 640-acre tract south of the airport that city officials have been marketing for more than a year to manufacturers, freight businesses and distribution centers.
The report says no major airport in the country has as much vacant property suited for the speedy delivery method of doing business. Kasarda said 40 percent of the world's traded goods are transported by air.
City Manager Wayne Cauthen said area leaders should act quickly on the recommendations made in the report.
"This is something that should not be put on a shelf," Cauthen said. "There are things we can do with this airport property. Companies are looking for us to make a move."
Michael Webber, a local air cargo consultant, said he hadn't seen the report but thought the lofty expectations were realistic.
"KCI has a great competitive advantage, because it is a major commercial airport surrounded by several thousand acres of undeveloped land," Webber said. "You can only count on one hand the number of airports that fit in that category."