Argumentos a favor de novos aeroportos

IN THE 19th century cities and businesses grew up around the railways; in the 20th century the growth of motorways drove development. But these days the magnets for business are airports. With so much emphasis on just-in-time manufacturing and some professionals needing to jump on planes almost daily, airports are becoming the centres of cities of their own. Warehouses, malls, high-tech firms and even consultancies are setting up shop almost within sight of the runway. It is a phenomenon that John Kasarda, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina calls the “aerotropolis”. ###


One such aerotropolis has grown up around Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). Jeffrey Fegan, the airport's chief executive, illustrates the phenomenon with a large aerial photograph that has his airport at the centre. Dense clusters of buildings appear on all sides, just beyond the highways that ring the airport. DFW opened in 1974 and is set squarely in the middle of the two huge metropolitan areas that give it its name (see map). But much of the surrounding development has taken place over the past ten years. The immediate airport area has all the facilities travellers expect—rental-car agencies, hotels and cargo storage—as well as the headquarters of American Airlines. Warehouses are on all sides; the latest arrival is Amazon.com, which plans to open a giant plant later this year in the city of Irving, just a 15-minute drive from the airport. A new shopping mall is due to open south of the airport.

Irving used to be known mostly as a home to Texas Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys. But Las Colinas, a planned business and residential community within Irving, now boasts offices belonging to household names such as Accenture and Bank of America. In May Fluor, a giant engineering company, decided to move its corporate headquarters from southern California to Las Colinas. It cited the proximity of DFW as a “major factor” in its decision.

Dallas is far from an isolated example of airport-driven development. When Washington Dulles International Airport opened in 1962 in rural Virginia, it was considered a white elephant; but it has spawned a high-tech corridor and now sits in the fastest-growing county in the United States. Denver's ten-year-old international airport, about 40 miles out of town, is expected to be the centre of a community of 500,000 people by 2025—almost as many people as live in Denver itself. It recently branded its surrounding acreage as the “Aeropolitan”, a nod to Mr Kasarda, as well as a marketing pitch to businesses.

Working in the shadow of an airport has its problems. There are height restrictions on buildings, and residents and office workers have to put up with the noise and traffic that airports generate. But, despite those drawbacks, more and more businesses feel the need to be near a runway.