Pittsburgh International Airport has one of those so-called “good problems.”
Cargo volume at the airport has grown so rapidly in recent years that officials recently announced the construction of an approximately 140,000-square-foot building on the airfield in order to keep up.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority Board on Feb. 18 approved an agreement with developer Aeroterm to lease up to 8.77 acres of land for 30 years to build the new facility at no cost to the authority.
The largest cargo building in the airport’s history, it is expected to be operational by summer 2023, officials said.
“This project is a much-needed addition to our cargo operations, as we continue to partner with the industry to create new solutions to serve their customers in a trying supply chain environment,” said Bryan Dietz, PIT’s Senior Vice President, Air Service & Commercial Development.
“We’re looking forward to this partnership with Aeroterm, which will further our mission as an economic driver for Western Pennsylvania while being able to expand the ease and efficiency our airport is becoming known for in the air cargo industry.”
Aeroterm will pay $244,000 in rent in the first year of the deal, in addition to 5 percent of annual revenue. The lease has two 10-year renewal options.
The new building does not affect the airport’s plan to build what is known as Cargo 4, a 77,000-square-foot cargo-processing facility and adjacent parking lot that has received nearly $20 million in federal and state grants and is expected to be operational by 2024.
The construction boom is being driven by an even larger cargo boom—volume was up nearly 30 percent in 2021 and totaled nearly 250 million pounds, making it the busiest cargo year at PIT since 2004, when it was still a hub for US Airways.
PIT’s cargo operations include domestic shippers such as FedEx and UPS as well as international firms such as Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and more. Last spring, PIT became part of the Amazon Air network, and the airline quickly added a second daily flight from the e-commerce giant.
The airport’s appeal for cargo lies in its geographic location, with easy proximity to both East Coast and Midwest population centers, as well as the speed and efficiency with which the air cargo community in Pittsburgh moves cargo through the airport. In short, using PIT saves logistics companies time and money compared to more congested airports.
Cargo operations at PIT in 2021 generated more than $950 million in direct, indirect and induced economic impact for the regional economy, according to a study commissioned by the ACAA. In addition, more than 3,700 jobs were created as cargo serves as a multiplier for industries such as trucking and logistics.