Janet Bednarek, a professor of history at the University of Dayton, specializes in airports—and in the idea of the airport as a hub for economic growth. She thinks airports bring a lot of potential, but there are also limitations; ultimately, she says, corporations decide where they want to go, and an “if you build it, they will come” approach can backfire.
“Dayton has always tried to capitalize on the fact that we’re at the intersection of two major interstates,” says Bednarek. “It just seems like the ability to capitalize on that hasn’t seemed to happen yet.”
Bednarek says Dayton has the potential for more development around the airport, especially as an “intermodal hub” where train, truck and plane travel meet. But nearby Memphis and Louisville already have a corner on a similar market, and the Dayton International Airport has struggled to fill up empty infrastructure over the last couple of decades. It’s also not clear that development around the airport would necessarily bring the kinds of middle-class jobs the area needs most.
Still, economic developers in Dayton are pushing for more investment in and around the airport in hopes it will take off. A recent announcement from Procter and Gamble about opening a distribution facility in the area bodes well. Bednarek isn't against it—she just says history shows there are no guarantees.
Under Construction is WYSO’s series on growth in the greater Dayton area. We dig underneath the physical and economic markers of growth to look at the human consequences. Check back Thursdays for new installments. Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, economics reporter and substitute host. Follow him @lewispants.