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Reno cargo traffic takes off

Anne Knowles

The bad news is passenger traffic

keeps falling. The good news is cargo

traffic through the Reno-Tahoe

International Airport is soaring.

In August, air cargo traffic rose about

17 percent, from 8.1 million pounds in

2001 to 9.5 million pounds in 2002,

according to the airport. Cargo traffic

through Reno has been growing since April,

when it jumped almost 11 percent from the

same month a year earlier, after dropping off

an average of 6.5 percent in the first three

months of the year. That bumps up Reno

cargo air traffic almost 7 percent for the first

eight months of the year, to 69.7 million

pounds from 65.3 million pounds in 2001.

That’s something for everyone to celebrate

since air cargo traffic is considered an early

economic indicator. “Air cargo is one of the

first indexes when a nation’s economy begins

to soften,” said Adam Mayberry, manager,

public affairs at the Washoe County Airport

Authority in Reno. The jump in traffic, he

said, ” is a good indication of a recovery.”

It is also a sign of the boom in northern

Nevada since the rise in the region’s cargo traffic

outpaces growth nationwide. In July, for

example, cargo traffic in North America rose

10.5 percent, according to the International

Air Transport Association in Geneva,

Switzerland. That same month it jumped

almost 20 percent in Reno.

“The area continues to diversify and we

continue to see an increase in warehousing

and distribution,” said Mayberry. “When

you fly in and out of Reno you see a lot of

tin roofs.”

Those businesses include Amazon.com,

which has a facility in Fernley, as well as one

of its distributors, Baker & Taylor, and Barnes

& Noble, the bookstore giant that has a warehouse

in Reno.

“The Internet is also a major factor,” said

Stan Bernstein, CEO of Heritage Turbines in

Plymouth, Mass., and president of the recently

established Regional Air Cargo Carriers

Association. “The net end result of every click

to buy online is a package that gets shipped.”

As a result, said Bernstein, the most dramatic

increase in cargo traffic is in small, individual

packages going to a single customer –

such as the book buyer who purchases products

from Amazon.

General bulk cargo – hundreds or thousands

of packages being shipped to or from a

single company – is on the decline, said

Bernstein, although it may still be substantial

in manufacturing and warehousing regions

such as Reno.

Another major reason for increasing traffic

nationwide is Federal Express’s year-old contract

to be the U.S. Postal Service’s air carrier,

according to the airport authority’s Mayberry.

The amount of mail rose dramatically

between August 2001 and 2002. Mail, both

delivered and picked up, jumped 250 percent,

from 371,669 pounds last year to 1.3 million

pounds this year.

In fact, FedEx claims the lion’s share of the

increase in cargo traffic in Reno. In August,

FedEx’s traffic through Reno jumped nearly

67 percent, to 39.2 million pounds this year

from 23.5 million pounds in 2001. FedEx

competitor Airborne Express Inc. comes close

– in terms of growth – with a 57 percent rise in

August traffic, shipping 3.5 million pounds in

2002 versus 2.2 million pounds a year earlier.

All of that comes at the expense of smaller

carriers. Six carriers – Alpine Aviation, Delta

Airlines, Empire Airlines, Kitty Hawk Air

Cargo, Union Flights and West Air – that

flew out of Reno a year ago no longer do business

at the airport. (A tiny portion of that

business was also picked up by three small carriers

– Evergreen international, Frontier

Airlines and Mesa – that now ship cargo into

Reno but didn’t a year ago.)

That again is a sign of growth in the

region. The smaller, regional carriers fly turbo

prop planes while the FedEx’s of the world fly

jets. Empire Airline, for example, once was a

subcontractor for FedEx when Reno was considered

a secondary market. Now Empire’s

turbo prop planes are gone and FedEx’s jets

are flying in.


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