The Louisville Regional Airport Authority made a number of improvements in 2017 to increase efficiency and expand the airfield at the Louisville International Airport ahead of an expected rise in the number of passengers and flights coming in and out of the airport in 2018.

Skip Miller, executive director of the airport authority, said during a media briefing and tour Wednesday that flight and passenger numbers increased in 2017 compared to 2016 because of the growing popularity of low cost carriers like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant. Miller said they had around 3.5 million passengers in 2017, up slightly from 2016.

The Renaissance South Business Park currently spans 790 acres. Photo from Louisville Airport Authority media release

“We think that the advent of the ultra-low-cost carrier will allow us to open up new nonstop markets from Louisville International Airport,” Miller said. “I anticipate other leisure-type travel markets coming online as well because the market has been very responsive here in Louisville.”

A spokeswoman said the airport is looking for passenger numbers to be strong in 2018, especially in response to Allegiant, which last month added service to Las Vegas, and Frontier, which begins nonstop service to Denver International Airport in May.

While changes were made at both the Louisville International Airport and Bowman Field, the area that Miller discussed the most at the briefing was the Renaissance South Business Park. The park is owned by the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corporation, which is an affiliate of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority.

Miller announced that the business park received $678 million in private and public investment in 2017.

“In public dollars, the Renaissance Park has spent somewhere around $6 million this year,” Miller said. “That money went to things like building roads and infrastructure repair. The rest of that $678 million is private investment by corporations.”

As of December 2017, the business park spans 790 acres, with 140 acres available for commercial development. Twenty-five acres are currently “identified for future retail development,” according to a media release.

Miller said the park currently employs 2,500 people, but he expects that number to rise to more than 3,000 in 2018.

“It is a significant catalyst for the economy here in Louisville,” Miller said. “We’ll serve the community many, many years into the future, and we’re excited about it’s success and the amount of investment that has gone into it.”