New group takes upbeat approach to bring back daily airline service
By Ed Runyan
There was no room for cynicism at the Youngstown-Warren Re- gional Airport on Wednes-day night.
Economic development officials and citizens kicked off an effort to show the world that the Mahoning Valley believes in itself again.
Douglas Kibby led the upbeat talk as he presided over the first meeting of YNGAir Partners, which aims to support the airport so an airline will invest in restoring daily service to the facility.
Daily air service will support the local economy because executives looking at areas for business expansion are very interested in the health of the local airport, Eric Planey, vice president for international business attraction for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, told about 30 attending.
Planey noted that a number of magazines have sung the area’s praises in recent months, and that should give people hope that businesses will give the area a good look and give airlines reason to take a chance on this area.
Earlier this month, Forbes magazine said the Youngstown-Warren metro area had the fifth-highest manufacturing job growth in the U.S. during the first quarter of the year.
In April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the Youngstown-Warren- Sharon area had the third-highest job growth in the U.S. for the first quarter.
In March, Forbes and Manpower magazines said the Youngstown-Warren metro area is the fourth-best place to find a job in the U.S.
Youngstown had the largest privately funded business expansion project in North America in 2010 at V&M Star.
To persuade an airline to bring flights that would capture 30 percent of the airline business now going to the Cleveland, Akron and Pittsburgh airports will require a revenue guarantee, said as Dan Dickten, airport aviation director.
That means the airport needs to set aside as much as $2 million in a bank account that an airline would be able to draw from if its flights here were not profitable on their own over the first couple of years, said Tom Reich, a Washington, D.C., airline consultant working for the local airport.
The airport already has about $1 million because of a $575,000 Federal Aviation Administration grant and in-kind services that airport officials believe will be available.
The other million can come from a variety of sources but have not been identified yet, Reich said.
There is no doubt that local business people would rather fly out of Vienna than the other airports because travel time is important to them, Reich said.
Using the local airport means a business traveler can work on the plane rather than drive an hour to get to an airport, and they don’t have to leave three hours before their flight to avoid traffic or deal with snowy conditions, Reich said. Dickten added they would save on gas and parking fees — around half or a third as much as Cleveland or Pittsburgh.
Reich said he and Dickten are in communication with Delta and U.S. Air to determine what size revenue guarantee would be needed to persuade them to come here. Delta would fly to and from Detroit; U.S. Air would fly to and from Philadelphia. Other front-runners are United Express and American Eagle to Chicago or United Express to Washington, D.C.