HOUSTON, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) broke ground Monday on a new international terminal at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), marking the official start of construction on the $156 million project. Once completed, the five-gate facility will accommodate regional international flights for Southwest Airlines, with service reaching destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the northern cities of South America. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, as well as local and state dignitaries, joined Southwest Airlines Employees in the brief ceremony before work immediately began. "Establishing international air service at William P. Hobby Airport will benefit Houston passengers in a variety of different ways, including increasing competition, boosting the local economy, and strengthening the ties that already exist with our friends in Latin America," says Houston Mayor Annise Parker. "And perhaps the best news of all, it comes at no expense to the Houston taxpayer." "With this new international terminal, we are not only literally breaking ground at Hobby Airport, we are charting new territory for our Company and for low-cost and high-value air travel," said Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines. "This will be Southwest's first international terminal in our 43-year history, and we look forward to bringing lower fares and more international flights to a city that could benefit from increased competition." A 2012 study commissioned by the Houston Airport System indicates that the new terminal will generate more than 10,000 jobs across the Greater Houston metropolitan area and will provide an economic impact of $1.6 billion. The study estimates that the terminal will bring in an additional 1 million passengers a year to Hobby Airport. The terminal project, fully funded by Southwest Airlines, includes a new five-gate international terminal, expansion of the existing security checkpoint, and upgrades to the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter area.