NYS Senators Pam Helming and James Seward came to the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport last Friday to announce a $250,000 grant that will be used to promote the airport. Airport Director Mike Hall says the money, which comes from the Senate's SOARS (Statewide Opportunities for Airport Revitalization) program, will be used for marketing and publicity. Helming, who represents Lansing, announced the grant at a press conference in the terminal.
"This is really a very exciting time for the Town of Lansing, for Tompkins County, and our entire Finger Lakes region," she said. "Fortifying this airport's presence is critical to the area's continued growth and prosperity. We cannot underestimate the importance of the airport, for, as Mike Hall likes to point out, this airport is very unique with the majority of its travelers flying to this area, not leaving it, and, therefore, spending their money in our community and New York State."
Hall has aggressively lobbied for the airport and negotiated with the airlines since he began managing it in the summer of 2014. He notes that the airport has connections to three major hubs with 650 one-stop connections globally, critical he says to being part of a global economy, as Ithaca and Tompkins County are. Hall is currently overseeing the transition from turboprop service to jets, which he says will bring more reliable service as well as economies to the airlines, fitting more people on each airplane and, thus, reducing congestion. To prepare for that transition over the course of this year the Tompkins County Legislature approved $1 million for a second jetway.
"One of the big challenges in terms of reliability is not the airport... the airport's the most reliable in upstate New York. It's the equipment," he says. "The jets will be more reliable. And the jets also can be serviced with a jetway. So you're going to see an uptake in what you're used to - you're not going to have to go outside. You're going down a jetway right onto the airplane. All that's going to happen over the course of the next year as United and American Airlines replace turboprop service with jet service."
Seward noted that the airport is a key component to the local economy. He said publicity paid for by the grant will bring people from all walks of life to the region.
"First impressions mean a lot," Seward said. "When someone touches down here we want them to know that they have arrived someplace very special and significant. After all, this is a gateway to the Finger Lakes region. There are so many world-class attractions here, and educational institutions, along with a thriving business community right outside the walls of this airport terminal. If we want the surrounding region to really take flight we need to have a top notch airport. We must also do all we can to market and promote what we have here."
Hall says the grant will be used to inform the Central New York public about the opportunities for air travel that the airport affords.
"It will be business; it will be private individuals; it will be tour groups thinking about coming to the area," he says. "The idea is to use the money to increase the activity here at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, and thereby boost the economy of Central New York."
"We believe this airport is on the rise in many ways," said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Michael Lane. "Over the next few months we're going to hear a lot of good things about this airport and transportation in general."