ANCHORAGE - Cargo passing through Ted Stevens International Airport is down by 12 percent this year.
The airport remains one of the busiest in the world, but officials said congressional scrutiny of the bypass mail program is a long-term concern.
2.6 million metric tons of cargo landed at the airport in 2011 - the second most in America after Memphis, and the fifth most in the world.
Anchorage has geographical advantages that won't go away, but it isn't all blue skies right now.
Airport general manager John Parrott and Torque Zubeck, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo, gave an update on the air freight picture Monday to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
"Location, location, location,” said Parrott. “We are absolutely blessed with being nine and a half hours from 90 percent of the industrialized world. That means if you make it or use it, we're in the middle of where it's made and where it's used."
Anchorage sits strategically between the rest of North America and Asia, which has made it one of the top refueling spots in the world.
But when the world economy is down, the effects are felt here.
"We're running about 12 percent down from last year on the cargo side,” said Parrott. “The good news is we're above 2009, which was the 'oh my gosh year."
Zubeck said some of the drop-off has been self-induced.
“I think one of the other issues in the state of Alaska is the investment in the oil and gas industry,” said Zubeck. “It's no secret that there was a change in the tax structure up here and to the extent that that huge economic engine isn't making as much investment up here, that certainly impacts the overall driver of the state of Alaska economy, and that's something we've seen in there."
Zubeck did not quantify the drop-off in cargo related to oil and gas.
But he's also concerned about a close call in congress on continuing the bypass mail program for Bush Alaska.
"We view it as a very efficient system to move goods at the cheapest cost for the consumers out to those areas. And we feel like it works very well, but it's something that looks odd to people in Washington."
Air cargo will continue to be a mainstay of the local economy, but external factors will affect the airport's rank.
Parrott also amazed the chamber audience with the amount of snow removed from the airport this past winter – 6.1 million tons.