VIENNA - A community support group for the local airport has garnered nonprofit status, an important step in its work to grow funds that could help market the airport to commercial airlines.
Calling the nonprofit status granted late last month to YNGAir Partners "a critical" step in the process of fundraising, group president James Pirko said plans now are to solicit foundation grants and plan future fundraisers.
Funds raised will be used as part of the needed $420,000 seed money for a $1.2 million Small Communities Air Services Development, or SCAD, grant, available to Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to help lure commercial daily service.
Described as a "reimbursement grant," the U.S. Department of Transportation offers the SCAD grants to help address air service and airfare issues in small communities. The $1.2 million grant available for the Western Reserve Port Authority, the board that oversees the local airport, is exclusively for use to establish an airline commuter hub at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, said Port Authority Director of Aviation Dan Dickten.
Dickten explained that the grant would be used to guarantee profitability for any airline agreeing to provide regular service at the airport.
"Typically a startup airline loses money in the beginning," Dickten said. "This guarantees them profitability of about 5 percent over break-even."
Dickten expressed optimism that a commercial carrier contract will be signed in the near future, but declined to speculate on a timeline.
Potential profitability studies, non-binding commitments of use totaling $6.2 million a year made last year by area air travelers as part of the port authority's travel bank marketing strategy, along with potential usage by oil and gas industry executives, are aiding the talks, Dickten said.
Coupled with the available SCAD grant and public support by YNGAir Partners and other members of the community are big selling points, Dickten said.
"It's a huge thing to have community support like this," Dickten said.
Pirko said YNGAir Partners has some big ideas on how to raise the required SCAD grant matching funds.
"We can now go after donations that would be tax exempt for the donor and foundation funding," Pirko said. "We are now considered a public charity by the IRS."
Fundraiser ideas that could help generate seed capital that were mentioned by Pirko could include things like concerts or celebrity appearance events, junket flights to entertainment destinations like Las Vegas, Branson, Mo., or wine country tours to upstate New York.
YNGAir Partners was established in 2011 to offer community financial and public relations support to Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.