County Looks For Private Sector Airport Subsidy Support

P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County officials will know in the next month whether businesses and foundations in the greater Jamestown area want a commercial air service provider.

On Tuesday, George Borrello hosted a Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport sustainability meeting at Webb’s Captain’s Table in Mayville to provide details about the new plan to possibly receive Essential Air Service (EAS) funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to bring a commercial carrier back to the airport.

“Well we sat down with several businesses and community leaders, like we did a few months ago. We got feedback from them for resubmitting a plan for commercial air service. We gave them an update on where we are at and the changes in the proposal,” Borrello said. “We did a survey of the businesses as well. We presented to them the plan for local support from the private sector and the public sector. We gave them the plan on how local businesses and foundations could participate whether it’s through a cash donation as a sponsor or to participate with in-kind services.”

Borrello said one way a local business could sponsor the program is by donating money to either be a silver, gold or a platinum sponsor. A silver sponsor would provide $4,000 a year while a gold sponsor would fund $8,000 and a platinum sponsor would provide $12,000. He said all three levels would be recognized in different ways like signs and advertising at the airport.

In-kind service support could be done by providing discounts or buy-one, get-one deals at local restaurants, hotels and businesses in the greater Jamestown area, Borrello said.

The plan is to resubmit the EAS funding proposal with the U.S. DOT around Sept. 1, Borrello said. He said between 40 to 50 businesses have been asked to participate in the sponsorship and in-kind services program.

He added the businesses have been notified that county officials would like to know the level of support they plan to provide the airport during the next couple of weeks.

“I believe we have a strong proposal,” he said. “It’s a much better airline, a better business plan and better service than we had with previous carriers.”

Borrello said county officials have partnered with Boutique Airlines on possibly bringing back commercial air service to the Jamestown airport. He said Boutique is exceeding all of its numbers at the Johnstown Airport and expects the business will be able to do the same in Jamestown if the EAS funding is approved. The new plan would also include two destinations with 131 daily departures to the Pittsburgh International Airport and 279 daily departures to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“It’s a very good business friendly plan. We are not just asking for money. We are doing things to enhance their business as well,” he said.

Borrello said he doesn’t know what the timeline is like once the new EAS funding proposal is submitted. He said, hopefully, if the application is approved by the end of the year commercial air service could return to the Jamestown airport by spring 2020.

In February, the U.S. DOT announced that it would not be restoring the EAS subsidy for commercial air service at the airport because it was perceived that the last airline failed because there was no local support. The federal government wants the local county and business community to invest in any future subsidy for commercial air service.

The U.S. DOT would like a 10% contribution to the annual $2,980,688 subsidy provided to the commercial air service provider for three years. In June, the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a resolution for the county to fund $72,000 in cash and $52,000 through in-kind services as part of the local subsidy.

County officials have asked the business community to fund $75,000 in cash and $87,000 through in-kind services as part of the private/public sector subsidy partnership.