Cafaro Foundation’s promise spurs airport’s bid for United

A commitment of $100,000 to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport by the Cafaro Foundation will make a significant dent in the $450,000 fund-raising goal set by the airport’s governing body.

But the involvement of one of the prominent families in the Mahoning Valley in the campaign to lure United Airlines isn’t just about money.

Indeed, given that the Cafaro Co. is one of the largest shopping-center developers in the country with holdings in many states, the decision-makers at United will no doubt take notice of the financial pledge.

The Cafaro Foundation was created in 1996 by members of the family in memory of William M. Cafaro, the patriach who built the real estate development and management company from the ground up. The foundation has provided significant support to organizations and individuals in the Mahoning Valley.

The Cafaro family has also been a major donor to Youngstown State University and has contributed a lot of money to its capital campaign.

The Cafaro House dormitory on campus is just one of the many projects made possible by the family’s financial participation.

Against that backdrop, the $100,000 pledge to the campaign to secure daily service by United Airlines is invaluable.

“For any local economy to flourish, a rapid transportation link to the rest of the world is a vital necessity,” the Cafaro Foundation said in a news release.

William A. Cafaro, co-president of the Cafaro Co., which owns the Eastwood Mall, said, “We hope that this $100,000 gift from our family and our charitable foundation will serve as a catalyst for other contributions.”

We hope so, too, given that the Western Reserve Port Authority, which governs the regional airport, is aiming for $1.65 million that would be used as a revenue guarantee for United.

The authority has $1.2 million available, and hopes to secure the rest from local sources.

Why United Airlines?

Because the airline is eliminating Cleveland as its hub airport, meaning it will no longer use it to connect passengers to airports around the world. It will reduce its flights at Hopkins International from 199 to 72 by June.

“When you hear news about the Cleveland hub closure, although it’s not good for the city of Cleveland — losing an airline hub has a lot of negative connotations — it creates opportunities for the Mahoning Valley that we didn’t have before,” said Tom Reich, president of Air Service Partners of Alexandria, Va.

Reich is an aviation consultant to the Youngstown-Warren airport

Travel plans

Cafaro rightly noted that there are many companies in the Valley that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in airfare annually.

“Why not make the service more convenient than having to drive to flights originating in Cleveland, Akron or Pittsburgh?’ he asked.

The port authority also is asking local governments in the area to commit dollars to the United Airlines campaign. The cities of Youngstown and Warren and Mahoning and Trumbull counties are being approached to contribute to the fundraising.

We understand that budgets are tight, given the cuts in state funding for local governments and the national economic recession, but the investment in commercial airline service is an investment in the economic future of the region.

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