By ANDREW GAUG
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
VIENNA — An extensive letter-writing campaign from many communities is encouraging legislators in Washington to approve a Small Community Air Service Development grant for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Communities that have written letters, so far, are Milton, Poland, Ellsworth and Boardman townships and Sebring and Beloit in Mahoning County, and Bazetta, Hartford and Vernon townships in Trumbull County.
“This is vital for our community,” said Poland Township trustee Mark Naples. “We’re hoping everybody gets involved.”
The $800,000 grant would help provide money for initiating a regional jet service with 50- to 90-seat planes. The airport’s main goal is to attract a major airline’s regional carrier affiliate to provide service to a connecting hub market within a 1,000-mile radius.
The money from the grant would help support the initial 12 months of service, minimizing the airline’s initial risk.
A secondary goal is to promote the airport again as travelers have probably changed their flying habits due to the airport lacking a consistent schedule since 2002, when Northwest Airlines ceased its local operations.
Meeting both of these goals is estimated to cost $1.85 million, according the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Steve Bowser, director of aviation at the airport, said in a letter to supporters that the U.S. Department of Transportation is limiting its funding for the grant, so competition is fierce.
“The USDOT is targeting small communities for this program,” he wrote. “Therefore, community support is most essential as the type and caliber of community support will be highly considered in the initial and subsequent review phases.”
Naples said Poland is in full support of the airport because of its effect on surrounding areas.
“I think anything we can keep open is good for anyone in the community,” he said. “It’s so vital to the economy of this area.”