Officials expect economic burst from new airline 

Local officials are preparing for a much-anticipated economic boost from Virgin America, a low-cost airline hoping to start running flights this year out of their hub at San Francisco International Airport.

The American company — started by Virgin Atlantic mogul Richard Branson and now owned mostly by American shareholders — released a study on Tuesday delineating the economic benefits of their presence in Bay Area. The study, researched by consultants Campbell-Hill Aviation Group and funded by Virgin America, found that the company would create thousands of jobs, save passengers hundreds of millions annually and bring more than 1.7 million passengers in and out of the Bay Area.

"All of that will contribute to a stronger tourist industry and stronger overall economy," San Mateo County Supervisor Mark Church said.

County officials expect these figures will bode well fortheir coffers. A 2004 report by the Bay Area Economic Forum found that a new domestic carrier flying 70 flights a week would generate nearly $24 million annually in state and local taxes, generated from airport operations and tourism.

As the county typically does when large employers set up shop here, Church plans on suggesting several county residents for the available jobs. Many of them were displaced from the airport when the travel industry went sour following 9/11, Church said.

"We want to let them know that we have the kind of workers they’re looking for," Church said.

The Bay Area-wide economy is doing well, according to R. Sean Randolph, president of the Bay Area Economic Forum.

Randolph said the economy has experienced "across-the-board" recovery since 9/11, with business revenue and profit on the upswing and unemployment falling back down.

tramroop@examiner.com

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