Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Chad R. Miller

Committee Chair Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Member 2

Quincy Brown

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Cyndi H. Gaudet

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


Until the early 20th century, transportation by land or water served as the primary methods of trade. As competition in the global marketplace increased in the 21st century air transportation emerged as a new and faster method of trade. Convinced of the economic benefits of air transportation, many policymakers of airport communities were quick to make plans for growth such as building infrastructure around the airport. This aerotropolis model often ignored the human capital development required for success.

Central to this study is this question: Is human capital development the missing component of the aerotropolis model economic development strategy? The researcher examined all 35 U.S. airports based on the aerotropolis model to determine the relationship between human capital development on aerotropolis model success. The purpose of this quantitative, explanatory, quasi-experimental study was to determine the relationship between human capital development and the aerotropolis model airport performance and success.

This study validated previous research that airports are important drivers of economic development. However, the study findings revealed that training (the nine Classification of Instructional Programs used to identify aerotropolis model education and training program categories in the study) had no effect on the success (measured as gross regional product, employment, and per capita income) of the airport community. Additionally, there was not relationship between human capital development and passenger and cargo activity.

The study indicated the primary driver of economic success in the airport community is passenger activity. The inter-connectivity of the airport with other airports drives passenger activity and cargo activity, not talent pipeline. Cargo activity at the aerotropolis model airport is less vital to the economic success of the airport community than passenger activity. This finding is contrary to John Kasarda’s opinion that cargo activity is equally important to the aerotropolis model as cargo activity.