DALLAS — Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport provides a $31.6 billion economic impact to the metropolitan area it serves, according to the University of North Texas Center of Economic Development and Research.

The figure is about double previous estimates because it includes $16 billion from the airport's air cargo activities that had not been counted in the past, according to research introduced at an event called Aerotropolis Americas held at DFW's Hyatt Regency Hotel.

DFW is considered an "aerotropolis," an airport that links efficiently to similar airports around the world while requiring little support or interaction from surrounding cities.

DFW's ultimate goal is to draw all of its revenue from non-aviation sources with no charges for airline operators, according to Mark Witte, head of industrial development and leasing.

Witte told members of the conference that the airport currently makes 65% of its revenue from non-aviation sources.

"Our long-term plan, if we can build out all of this unused land, is that we would like to get to a point that non-aviation revenue can be everything and we don't even have to charge people to land here, that's the ultimate goal but it's a lot of years out," said Witte.

One barrier to DFW's master plan is a dispute with the city of Grapevine over development of 750 acres that lie in a floodplain within the city's jurisdiction. The dispute forced the airport to shelve plans for an eighth runway.

DFW leases about 195 acres for industrial purposes, and 2,400 acres on the airport site are designated as free trade zones, giving tenants beneficial tax rates.

The airport has launched a record level of bond issuance over the past two years to capture interest-rate savings with refundings and to finance its $2 billion terminal remodeling program.

To get the debt to market, the airport was willing to absorb a Moody's Investors Service downgrade to A2 from A1 on its revenue bonds. The debt is also rated A-plus by Standard & Poor's, and A from Fitch Ratings. Outlooks are stable.

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