Editorial: We need commercial air service; explain the ‘why’ better

For months now, officials around the community have been saying how important it is to have commercial air service in Sheridan. It’s essential to businesses; it’s a spark in our growing tourism economy; it is just plain convenient. Yet not enough of the community’s average citizens really understand why commercial air service in our small city is such a big deal; and it is a big deal. Perhaps public officials from all organizations involved — Critical Air Service Team, elected officials and industry representatives — need to focus more on the nitty-gritty of why it matters and less on the big picture ideas.

Four months after Great Lakes Airlines left the community, we’re starting to hear mutterings that community members — at least those without airplanes of their own — aren’t sure what the big deal is. In gathering places around town, they are saying that they didn’t use the local airport anyway. Flights were too expensive and unreliable; they didn’t like the smaller planes. Feeling little impact personally, there is questioning on why we should spend taxpayer dollars on revenue guarantees to bring in a new provider.

Any amount invested in airline revenue guarantees will pay off in spades. Here’s why:

  • According to a Wyoming Department of Transportation study in 2013 on the economic impact of commercial airports and airline service in Wyoming, more than 374,000 visitors arrived in Wyoming on a commercial airline. Virtually half of those visitors came for business reasons. Another 34 percent had come for tourism.
  • The same study showed that of those visitors who came through Sheridan County by airplane, they stayed for an average of 4.4 days and spent an average of $545.
  • Do the economic impact calculations, and it’s $1 billion for the state. More valuably, it’s $23.4 million for Sheridan County. That’s real money that churns through a county of 30,000 several times over in local business and services.
  • Lastly, we rely on it for business access: local energy companies, real estate, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Sheridan College, government. The list of users is a long one.

Tuesday, The Sheridan Press first reported how Key Lime Air is considering Sheridan for service with two flights daily. There is much to be worked out: securing gates at Denver International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration regulatory details, website travel access. A target date is Nov. 1. In the meantime, these officials — as they seek private sector support for revenue guarantees and public support for a new commercial air service provider — need to do a better job of making their sales pitch to the community. Let’s tell Joe Citizen why this is a good deal. Be specific. Show the numbers. We need this.

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The news staff of The Sheridan Press covers news, sports and lifestyle stories throughout Sheridan and its surrounding region. News tips and information can be sent to the newsroom at news@thesheridanpress.com
Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc..