Hoping carrier benefits take off
The port authority could have a broader role in future Valley ventures.
VIENNA -- Gaining a passenger carrier allows the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to begin reaching the 6.8 million people within 90 minutes' travel time who have been flying from other airports, predominantly in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
That was a goal of the marketing push begun in January by the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport. Now, it has brought a new passenger airline to the airport.
Boston-Maine Airways' Pan Am Clipper Connection was to announce today that it's making a commitment to serve a 10-county market in Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania starting this fall. Boston-Maine has a fleet of 21 727 jet airliners and 20 Jetstream regional-type aircraft.
The airline's commitment "is one to be treated with great respect, gratitude and care," said Steve Bowser, the airport's director of aviation. "Our No. 1 priority is to secure Pan Am Clipper Connection and its future, and build upon this partnership."
Bowser said a successful endeavor by the airline will allow the carrier to broaden its scope of service in the Mahoning Valley -- if the community's support warrants continued investment for growth.
"Pan Am has become more than an airline to us," he said. "These Pan Am professionals are going to be instrumental in the renaissance of our region."
Youngstown-Warren would be worked into the airline's existing routes. Its destinations are Boston/Portsmouth, N.H.; Trenton, N.J.; Newburgh, N.Y.; Columbus; Orlando/Sanford, Fla.; Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fla.; San Juan and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and Punta Cana and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Another part of the port authority's marketing -- which uses the slogan "The Sky's the Limit" -- involves bringing together similar regional airports across the nation to form a consortium for marketing travel routes.
Chuck Johnson, a former Eastern Airlines and US Airways pilot now working on the airport's marketing with Rubenstein Associates of Liberty, said commercial aviation's future lies in the joint efforts of discount airlines and regional airports.
"The largest metropolitan airports are overcrowded, parking is costly, wait times are often outrageous, security is a lengthy process, and travel times and access are difficult," he said.
The Vienna airport offers 1,400 acres, a $1 million secure holding area built about six years ago, the longest runway in Northeast Ohio, a tower that's always open, military-quality fire and rescue service, and the ability to accept any size of aircraft in the world, officials said.
It needs to bring people through its gates on a regular basis to retain $1 million in annual Federal Aviation Administration funding, which is used to maintain the $40 million in improvements made there, 10 percent of which were locally funded.
The Trumbull 100 group of 80 Warren business leaders early this year contributed $30,000 to hire Rubenstein Associates and to augment a $250,000 federal Small Community Air Services grant to attract and promote a carrier. Along with airline services, the port authority's marketing effort is targeting partnerships with cargo carriers and freight forwarders, allied industries, manufacturers and aircraft assembly companies.
State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, has suggested that the Western Reserve Port Authority could take over marketing and tourism efforts for the entire Mahoning Valley.
Dann envisions the port authority using both counties' lodging tax proceeds and having a supervisory position over five subdivisions or commissions: tourism advisory, airport and community marketing advisory, film advisory, technical-education-work force development and military growth advisory.
Such two-county promotion and marketing plans have surfaced occasionally since the mid-1980s, but counties generally have been reluctant to give up their identities to a joint venture. The new twist here would be that the port authority operates across two counties. The port authority has become involved in cross-county efforts such as the Mahoning River cleanup, foreign trade zones and enterprise zones.
A law pushed through the state Legislature last year by Dann now permits the two counties to use lodging tax money to fund the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.