The head of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce says lining up daily, non-stop flights to a major East Coast hub is now the local business community's top priority.
The airport has again applied for a federal grant that, if successful, would be used to help cover costs for an airline if the route proves to be initially unprofitable. The city applied for a similar grant last year but was unsuccessful.
Leaders recently announced they're targeting Delta for a non-stop flight from Boise to Atlanta. "Any route to the east coast is important for the business community because it's the one route we really don't have in our portfolio," says Bill Connors, president and CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.
"The East Coast has eluded us for some years so we're going after Atlanta pretty hard," Connors says. "It's important for economic development, it's important for businesses to get to their customers, it's important for businesses to have customers get to them. It's clearly an important economic tool. And when you don't have those connections, you're losing business to someone else."
The Boise building supply company BMC announced in May that it plans to relocate to Atlanta. A lack of efficient air service in and out of Boise was one of its reasons for leaving.
Boise has recently added flights to Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Chicago. But even as the local economy improves, airlines have been hesitant to connect Boise directly with a major eastern hub. Connors says that's because of changes in the the way the airline industry operates.
"It takes a plane big enough to fly that route," he says. "It takes an awful lot of fuel to get out here, and fuel has become the second-largest expense for an airline. So we have to prove to them that we have the capacity here in Boise to fill one of those planes."
Connors says businesses have pledged about a quarter of a million dollars to help supplement the grant application. He says Boise should know by early fall whether this year's application is successful.
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