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The goal of promoting the Ethiopian rose market is to use it as a “springboard” for the cargo-shipping capability at the airport, said Joseph Maly, who is the head of air-cargo development at Dulles.

Not only is there the cargo-handling community, Mr. Maly said, but it also “brings in more manufacturing and distribution” businesses, which “at that point benefits the regional area.”

Growing interest

Based on the location of the airport and its proximity to major roadways and railways, about 56 percent of the nation’s population can be reached overnight by truck.

The latest MWAA Economic Impact Study, from 2009, shows the total impact of airport-dependent industries amounted to $1 billion in labor income in Virginia.

Stephen Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis, at George Mason University, agreed that building on the airport’s assets is “critically important to the local economy.”

“This is a modern version of a transshipping point, where you change modes,” Mr. Fuller said. “To do that, you need warehouses, accountants, lawyers, trucking, all sorts of professional services that go with repositioning this stuff, whether it be flowers,” or another product.

“It’s a big multiplier effect: The jobs that depend on jobs that depend on jobs,” he said.

Jeff Serafini, a purchasing manager at Potomac Floral Wholesale familiar with the rose endeavor, said from his company’s perspective, there’s an interest in the direct route between the Washington area and distant flower farms of Ethiopia.

“The interest we have is not to see the Ethiopian market replace or supplant what ‘s already being done well in South America. We’re much more interested in the varieties that are not being brought to the United States,” Mr. Serafini said. “That’s exciting to me. We’re supportive of it, and hopefully, something will fit into the mix of what we provide to our customers.”