Advocating for regional transportation infrastructure expansion.
At the founding of our corporation the Air Service initiative was structured to afford businesses and the broader community with enhanced access to and from the region via the St. Cloud Regional Airport (STC). It was an aggressive effort led by Al Kremers, GSDC Air Service Corps Chair and undertaken in collaboration with the City of St. Cloud under the leadership of Mayor Dave Kleis.
Convenient, reliable air service plays a significant role in fueling economically vibrant regional centers. Access to global markets is imperative to a growing segment of our regional business community and in attracting and retaining high caliber talent. STC is a high-quality regional asset that is significantly underutilized.
Significant progress was made in attracting scheduled air service back to the St. Cloud Regional Airport. The introduction of leisure-oriented air service via Allegiant Air to Mesa, Arizona began in December 2012 and has enjoyed high utilization and customer satisfaction. A sizeable federal grant and local funding raised by GSDC for an air service revenue guarantee ultimately aided in attaining twice-daily flight service via United Express/SkyWest Airlines to Chicago O’Hare beginning in May 2014. Together, the Allegiant and United flight service afforded more than 60,000 passengers to fly in and/or out from St. Cloud Regional Airport in 2014; an increase from 29,000 in 2013 and less than 1,000 in 2012.
While utilization of the Allegiant service remains strong, a variety of challenges encountered with the Chicago service, including service reliability, resulted in the revenue guarantee resources being insufficient to sustain the service. Air service from St. Cloud to Chicago was suspended by Skywest as of March 1, 2015.
Air service remains important to regional vitality. STC and commercial air service benefits a multi-county region but is currently sustained through just the City of St. Cloud. The experience with the Chicago route proved the need for a broader, deeper and more sustainable approach to governance and funding for the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
Regional Airport Authorities (RAA) are common tools used to achieve broader, deeper and more sustainable governance, legislative representation and funding. Success in transitioning to an RAA will depend on collaborations and contributions by all stakeholders.
In 2015, the scope of the air service initiative was broadened to encompass a more comprehensive, integrated approach to regional transportation infrastructure advocacy. To this end, the GSDC Transportation Corps was formed to succeed the Air Service Corps. The Transportation Corps will work in close collaboration with various local, regional, state and federal partners in advancing regional transportation initiatives.