YOUNGSTOWN AND WARREN Airport snares grant for passenger service
Officials hope the grant will get airlines' attention.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
VIENNA -- The federal government has awarded the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport a $250,000 grant to lure new air passenger service.
The award, which the Department of Transportation announced Monday, could be used to market or cover expenses of an airline willing to fly here, airport interim director Steve Bowser said.
The federal money must be matched with about $120,000 in local funds, he said. That figure would comprise $25,000 each from Trumbull and Mahoning counties; $10,000 from the port authority and $60,000 from private donations and in-kind contributions.
"This is a huge shot in the arm for our airport, and I'm proud this effort has paid off in such a big way," said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17th, who submitted a letter of support for the airport's application. "A quarter-million dollars will go a long way toward helping our community market this airport and attract new passenger service."
Airport officials discovered this month that the only airline to fly from the airport, Vacation Express, will be suspending service in September, after six months of operation.
To persuade Vacation Express to initiate the service, the board that runs the airport spent $300,000 to market the company's flights to Florida and Myrtle Beach. The Western Reserve Port Authority borrowed the money from Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
This is the third time the local airport has applied for the grant, designed to help small communities with poor air service. It was denied funding in the first two rounds.
Airport officials have had discussions with several air carriers, but no commitments have been made. Airlines may be more interested in the airport now that they know there is subsidy money available, Bowser said.
"I think this will really get their attention," he said. "It will be up to the port authority and airport to decide what is a good fit."
The experience with Vacation Express has shown that direct flights to popular destinations can work from the airport, he said. The port authority also hopes to snare flights that would allow passengers to transfer to other destinations, he said.
Bowser said the port authority board is contemplating hiring someone to work exclusively on marketing the airport to airlines, but that he was not aware if anyone had been interviewed for the job.