This is a sponsored post by Heathrow Airport.

International competition for jobs and trade has never been more intense. A country’s success in this global race depends on the strength of its links with existing and potential markets.

That is why the future of the UK’s aviation capacity is so urgent and will be one of the most important decisions the next government will take. Without expanding the UK’s aviation hub capacity, the UK’s long-term growth and prosperity will be threatened as we fall behind our global competitors.

The decision has to be the right answer to meet the national interest. The aviation debate isn’t about a runway – the UK is full of runways and the country has spare capacity to last 100 years. This debate is about how we maintain the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.

At the centre of an integrated transport system, the UK’s only hub airport Heathrow is the country’s biggest port for both passengers and freight. We handle twice as much cargo in value as the UK’s two busiest shipping container ports combined.

But Heathrow is full and British businesses of all sizes need direct routes to access new customers. Small businesses especially will need to be better connected than ever before.

Take Chris Baker-Brian from BBOXX, who is providing reliable solar energy to 35 developing countries with his briefcase-sized battery box. From the Congo to Columbia, BBOXX powers phones, homes, schools and hospitals, changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Or the Liverpool School of English which wants to welcome more students from Brazil, Russia, India and China. But to tap into the demand from these far-off markets, both the School and BBOXX need frequent and direct flights, something only an expanded Heathrow is able to deliver.

With Heathrow, the UK has a huge competitive advantage. Thanks to record investment over the last ten years Heathrow is a world-class, global hub airport which was last week named the ‘Best Airport in Western Europe’ at the Skytrax Awards. It is also the best located hub in the world, with 95 per cent of the global economy within range of a direct flight. Our role is complementary to the role of all other UK airports. Like our direct competitors in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, we serve markets that cannot be served by point-to-point airports.

The independent Airports Commission’s own analysis found expansion at Heathrow delivers more jobs and economic growth than any other option. A total economic benefit of up to £211 billion and 180,000 jobs.

And importantly, these benefits would be felt not just in the South East but across the country. £114 billion of economic benefits will be generated for regions outside of London and the South East. While research shows more than half of the new jobs created will be distributed across the whole UK.

As the UK’s best connected transport hub, strengthening Heathrow’s national reach to every corner of the UK is a central pillar to our plans and one of the key differences to those rejected previously.

While Heathrow is a national asset, our impact on and contribution to our neighbours around us couldn’t be more important. Our new proposals have been developed in close consultation with local residents. Consequently, the political landscape has shifted considerably from when our last plans were on the table.

We have worked hard to ensure we offer the greatest benefits to the local area while minimising noise, disruption and environmental impact. The Airports Commission has found that Heathrow expansion would create 41,000 jobs for local residents at the same time as seeing noise levels reduced. Local unemployment could be cut by 50 per cent and youth unemployment in surrounding boroughs could end.

That’s the result of listening to the concerns of local people and communities. It’s also why more than 50 per cent of people in our local area now back expansion at Heathrow with only 33 per cent disapproving. More broadly 80,000 people have registered to the Back Heathrow campaign and the majority of people in only one local authority area are opposed to our plans.

The hard evidence shows expansion at Heathrow is the best solution for all of the UK. It has support not only locally but nationally, with over 30 Chambers of Commerce, the majority of members of the Institute of Directors, and trade unions such as the GMB and Unite supporting us. Regional airports, national trade bodies, such as the manufacturing group EEF and the Freight Transport Association, and major airlines – including easyJet – have thrown their weight behind us. Now, that’s real momentum.

Expansion at Heathrow is not just best for Britain but is also backed by Britain. It is time to get on with it.