54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Airports have stepped beyond the stage of being simply pure infrastructure facilities. Hub airports in particular are considered to function as supra-regional and international gateway infrastructure thus having a decisive impact on firms' competitiveness and stimulating urban development. Hub airports have ? through their capability of concentrating different types of flows, from local to global ? morphed into strategic nodes within the networked economy. Recent studies indicate that hub airports increasingly play a significant role for multi-branch multi-location firms with their decision making process about where to locate. Successively, knowledge-intensive companies have settled their regional, national and sometimes supranational branches in close spatial proximity to primary and secondary airports. Simultaneously to their enhanced functionality, hub airports in Europe are increasingly recognized as general urban activity centres; that is, key assets for cities and regions as economic generators and catalysts of investment, in addition to being critical components of efficient city infrastructure. Hub airports thus represent ? against the backdrop of knowledge intensive firms optimizing physical and relational proximity within their knowledge generation efforts ? a crucial case where new urban functionalities co-produce new emerging urban patterns and vice-versa. The paper will shed light on the following questions: Which role does the knowledge generation process of firms and their respective locational needs play for geographical and relational proximity? What role does the hub airport represent within the value chains of knowledge-intensive companies? What role does an airport assume within a multi-branch firm's decision-making process about locating activities? The paper reflects the empirical results of a research project that compares the firm location behavior at the airports of Amsterdam, Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. We conclude with some recommendations on how airport-linked real estate sites need to be planned in order to reach certain robustness towards the constantly changing spatial needs of its users.