Local experts say the clock is ticking on ensuring airport services remain in Erie.
Erie International Airport is still served by only one major airline but seeing the value in having flights to and from Erie, the Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership have been pushing for public and private sector support.
“We’re at a really pivotal point in investing in our airport,” said Susannah Faulkner, an Erie City Council member.
Some are saying the Erie International Airport isn’t competitive enough to push past a lack of airline carriers and flight options they currently face.
A Fly Erie Fund advocate from the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership said the public and local government have been hands off when it comes to the airport for some time, but that needs to change.
“It might have been ok in the past to kind of be like ‘yeah that’s their job, they can do it,’ but we’re not looking to run the airport, what we’re looking to do is support it and make sure that it’s operationally efficient and it’s cost competitive to the airlines and to the people flying out of it,” said Jack Rouch, the vice president of the Economic Development Division of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership.
The Erie Chamber is hoping to rally the support of both private and public entities to the tune of $750,000 each over the next three years, totaling a $6.5 million cushion after the airport adds in five million of its own reserve funds.
“We need to be able to have transportation and good air infrastructure. And so having all of the different players come together to find possible solutions for the barriers and challenges that the airport is facing is critical at a time when we’re facing a lot of competition,” said Faulkner.
Although Erie Airport has received some $19.6 million over the past two years, most of the funding was limited to infrastructure and could not be used for operating costs.
The Fly Erie Fund money would have a different purpose- subsidizing Erie flights and used as leverage to draw in both legacy airliners and ultra-low-cost carriers.
“We have demand here. We need to secure it and these airlines are going to have to fight to get our passengers and that will result in fares becoming more reasonable and more competitive,” said Rouch.
Rouch hopes to have commitments to funding before the end of 2023 and to start working the fund in 2024, but adds these next few years are crucial for Erie’s airport.