The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

LAX is a regional economic force. But it still needs major work

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39516 full

Los Angeles International Airport is the sixth busiest air transportation hub in the world. According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, it accounted for almost 300,000 jobs in L.A. county in 2011; generated more than $13 billion in labor income; promoted nearly $40 billion in economic output; and brought in $2.5 billion is state and local revenue.

LAX: the jewel in the crown of one of America's most dynamic economic regions!

Also, a facility in desperate need of fixing up. Back in April, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine ranked it the second-worst airport in the nation, behind New York's LaGuardia, where tattered memories of the Jet Set go to die. Here's the writeup:

LAX ranked at the bottom of most categories—that includes location (20th), check-in and security process (21st), impression of safety standards (22nd), baggage handling (20th), staff communication (21st), and terminal cleanliness (21st). Clearly, this worn-out airport is ready for a major Hollywood makeover.

Detect a mismatch here? The L.A. area is highly dependent on LAX, economically. But travelers actually despise the airport. This is a big problem, as tourism has been one of the business sectors that's kept L.A. in the game economically during the weak recovery from the Great Recession. Fortunately, LAX is in the midst of a $4.11-billion makeover, which LAEDC also analyzed in terms of economic impact.

Unfortunately, that makeover could be a bet on business that won't ultimately materialize. As important as LAX is to the region, it's seen passengers decline over the past decade, according to an L.A. Times report from last year. The future looks brighter, but it's far from assured.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

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