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CEREDO — Huntington Tri-State Airport is chasing after a new route to two cities, but to achieve its goal there must be support from the local business community.

The airport’s director, Brent Brown, says he receives numerous calls about when the new service to Chicago and Washington, D.C., will begin, but it will not be anytime soon.

“There is a process we have to go through,” he said. “Everyone is aware of the $750,000 grant award to be used recruit, initiate and support new air service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Washington-Dulles International Airport. However, the other piece of the $750,000 is a local match. They want to see a minimum of a million dollars, and we have three quarters of that with the grant. The $250,000 match cannot come from the airport; it must come from the community.”

Brown says the airport will now make a push to fundraise the needed additional funds.

“What the airlines like to see is a high number of businesses investing in this route,” he said. “If we went to one of the major companies in the area, and we asked them for $250,000 and then went to the airline and say, ‘Hey, we have all the money,’ they aren’t necessarily going to look at that because it’s only one business. But if we get 250 businesses and they all put in $1,000, that would get their attention.”

Brown said for any airline to buy into the new route it must see a wide range of support from the local business community.

“That’s the campaign we are going to be pushing to all our business leaders,” he said. “We are hoping to do something with the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce soon, as well as having an invitation to the community event, so they can come out and find out information about what we are trying to accomplish.”

Brown said dates for the events have not been scheduled and are still in the planning phase.

In July, the airport was awarded a $750,000 fiscal year 2019 Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“It would be Chicago to Huntington to Dulles and then back,” Brown said.

Brown said with Tri-State being a small regional airport, it has very limited service with only one hub offering to Charlotte, North Carolina. Airport officials want to offer more options.

“It’s difficult for people who are trying to go west because they have to go east and typically they have a long layover,” he said. “For a lot of folks heading west, the Chicago route makes a lot of sense.”

Brown says the airport continues to reach out to all airline carriers and have received a letter of support from SkyWest, operated by United Airlines.

“They would like to see American Airlines pick up the route since they already operate out of Huntington,” he said. “They could have two hub offerings with Chicago and Charlotte.”

Brown added that the airport has recently completed some upgrades and announced it will also have a new restaurant coming soon.

“We have been making a real effort to beautify and modernize the airport,” he said. “We have lots of paint, new signage and different things that make the airport more attractive.”

Brown said the COVID pandemic has slowed down the momentum some.

“We lost our restaurant when COVID hit, and now we have a new restaurant in here by the beginning of February,” he said. “The lease hasn’t been signed yet so I cannot disclose the name at this time.”

Brown says the upgrades and community support should lead to a successful fundraising campaign.

“I think we have more than enough time to raise the matching funds and to secure a route,” he said. “We just need to get the numbers behind it so we can say that our community really wants this and needs this. I think it’s a great opportunity to support our local airport and in turn they’ll get the support from that new route.”

Brown said local businesses wanting to make a pledge of support or more information can contact him at the airport by calling 304-453-6165, ext. 314, or emailing adraper@tristateairport.com.

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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