Wednesday, August 29, 2012

City chips in $100k to airline expansion

ST. GEORGE — Aiming to boost services and provide a lift for the local economy, the St. George City Council voted Wednesday to toss in $100,000 of city funds to support a new flight destination out of the new city airport.

The city was awarded a $550,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program in order to help get a new flight going to Denver, and possibly other western regional hubs, such as Phoenix or San Francisco.

Currently there are commercial flights to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles at the 19-month-old airport.

To get the grant, the city agreed to put $100,000 in cash toward the effort. There is also an agreement in place to get $100,000 of in-kind funding in the form of fee waivers and an advertising campaign through the St. George Convention and Tourism Bureau and State of Utah Tourism office. A program sponsored by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce could be worth another $100,000 in pre-purchased tickets.

That gives city leaders $850,000 worth of incentives to lure airlines into bringing a new flight route to the airport.­ They can use the money to supplement any losses incurred by the airline as it tries to establish the new route, City Manager Gary Esplin said.

“The traveling public is using it more,” he said. “Is it enough to keep it going? We hope.”

Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said city leaders have initiated talks with several airlines on the topic, including SkyWest Airlines, the company that offers the airport’s current commercial flights.

SkyWest submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation voicing support of the grant, and Marissa Snow, company spokesperson, said SkyWest is committed to meeting the market demand, whatever that includes.

“Those are conversations that are being had based on what the market entails and what makes the most sense for the current market size,” she said.


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