Warren pledges $30K to airport

WARREN – The YNG Air Partners United Airline project received its first official government support Wednesday when City Council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution pledging up to $30,000 for United Airlines to add local daily flights.

The money would go toward guaranteeing the airline at least a 5 percent profit during its first six to eight months if it should choose to add daily service from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna. The nonprofit group is working to get pledges of about $360,000.

The Cafaro Foundation already pledged $100,000 toward enticing the airline to add local service. YNG Air Partners and airport representatives have been making presentations throughout Trumbull, Mahoning, Mercer, Pa., and Lawrence, Pa., counties, attempting to convince local governments to provide a portion of the incentive money.

United Airlines has been meeting with local airport and economic development officials about the possibility of startup service with twice-daily connector flights to Chicago O’Hare Airport.

The pledge money would be used to supplement a $1.2 million federal Small Community Air Service Development grant that includes a $420,000 local match from the Western Reserve Port Authority.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, who with Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, held a joint council caucus meeting last week, suggested the $30,000 amount from the city because she thought it would be fair-share amount.

Dan Dickten, director of Aviation of the Western Reserve Port Authority, told the council members that Rucker’s estimate happened to be the same amount they estimated would be needed from the city.

The projections are they will need about $48,000 from Youngstown based on its population size and $60,000 from each of the counties. Different amounts will be needed from communities based on population sizes.

Dickten emphasized they are not looking for money at this time, but for pledges of support.

“If they (United Airlines) do come, we will have three to four months to provide money,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, said he could support the resolution of up to $30,000 because they will have time to learn the level of support that other communities will give the project.

“I was concerned that we were jumping the shark by putting an amount out there,” Colbert said.

Flask, who also pledged support for the project, emphasized that he believes that a profit-making organization like United Airlines would not decide whether to move into an area because of a $30,000 contribution.

“They are going to move into an area because they believe they are going to make a profit,” Flask said.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said as the county seat, the city should show it is a leader.

“Over the next year, a number of flights will be leaving Cleveland (International Airport),” Novak said. “It is a plus for us. Cleveland’s loss could be our gain.”

Dickten emphasized that people flying out of the airport would save money because United Airlines officials say they will charge the same amount at Youngstown-Warren Airport as they charge in Cleveland and in Pittsburgh.

“Passengers will not have to drive to Cleveland or Pittsburgh airports and parking is $6 per day,” he said.

Rucker said she is going to send copies of the city’s resolution to several communities, but said she would personally call Howland and Liberty officials to gauge their support for the project.

“These are the communities that will benefit the most if this happens,” she said.