CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BNIA) is as busy as ever and in the middle of an $80 million expansion.
The main goal of the expansion is to help passengers but it can also make Buffalo more attractive to businesses.
BNIA is currently one of the oldest public airports in the country, it opened in 1926 as the Buffalo Municipal Airport with only mail service. A year later the first passenger flight went to Cleveland.
Now almost 100 years later, more than five million passengers a year come through the airport. 100 flights a day to 25 non-stop destinations and the airport is rated the top medium-sized airport in the U.S.
BNIA has grown by leaps and bounds over the decades, but has it grown enough?
There is no question that Buffalo and WNY are on the rebound, but when companies look to set up, expand, or relocate they look at several different factors.
Thomas Kucharski of Invest Buffalo Niagara says quick access to the rest of the world is very important to companies.
NFTA Director of Aviation Bill Vanecek says that is something the NFTA is aware of which is why they have begun the expansion.
Officials are working to expand the non-stop flights the airport offers as well.
Congressman Brian Higgins says Buffalo needs to demonstrate to companies that it's worth investing here.
Vanecek says one reason Buffalo may be held back when it comes to international flights is because of its proximity to Toronto.
Kucharski says the more the population grows in Buffalo the easier it will be for companies to decide to make a move here.
Buffalo may not have the business demand it needs yet, but it definitely has the tourist demand.
Almost 40 percent of Buffalo passengers come from Canada. At the Niagara Falls Airport it's about 80 percent.
Passengers say that's due to how much money they can save by flying out of Buffalo or the Falls instead of Toronto.
The two airports now have an annual $1.5 billion economic impact in WNY, a number that could continue to grow as the passenger count grows.
Officials say they are confident and know what new businesses want when it comes to an airport.