Viewpoint: Airport initiative mostly echoes

Viewpoint: Airport initiative mostly echoes

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

“Surprise, surprise, suprise,” as Gomer Pyle used to say. Director James Loomis and other local officials are saying what consultant Peter Mowbray, former airport directors and this paper were saying for the last five years.

After watching air transport pass this town by for the last 40 years, they’ve finally come out of their Rip Van Winkle slumber because the situation has changed, and the public push is there to put Rockford’s airport on the map.

The Greater Rockord Airport Board has decided to hire a company to help Loomis market the airport, which is something he was not particularly willing to do only a few months ago.

Most interesting. The airport had a consultant a couple of years ago. Peter Mowbray was marketing our facility with some success. He was ready to pull off passenger service to Rockford from several airlines and a sister airport relationship with Beauvais, France.

So what did the boys do? They fired him. Randy Olson, one of Mowbray’s associates, said back then that the way to go is regional jet service.

According to the daily, former airport director Fred Ford says the best approach is a pattern of regional jets serving a number of hub cities. Ford says that would boost passenger traffic considerably.

Ryan Petty, president of the Council of 100, who dozed through the issue for several years, now says he has a vision of regional jet service to many hubs.

Mike LaPier, director of Bloomington’s airport and former assistant director of Rockford airport, said he has been very successful in attracting passenger service to his airport. LaPier noted he offered no incentives to airlines, just good marketing to get them there.

The daily says Ford pointed out that airlines are looking to the future and plan- ning for where they will put flights that don’t go to O’Hare. While our local delegation has

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been running to Springfield to appeal to state legislators and going to see our representatives in Congress, Ford said the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee is where it’s at. That’s because the ultimate decision will be made at the federal level.

While most of our local state lawmakers are plumping for Rockford as a “spill-over” airport to relieve O’Hare, Sen. Dave Syverson is showing where his allegiance lies. Syverson backs the proposed Peotone airport and claims he is working behind the scenes to persuade Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown that we have plenty to offer and don’t want to harm Peotone.

Speaking of Peotone, the airport site is a forest of blind trusts. Could it be that Ryan’s and Brown’s enthusiasm for that project is prompted because one or both of them are principals in one or more of these trusts? Why, our governor would never do anything suspect or even crooked, would he?

George and Company are trying to convince everyone that the big growth is to the south of Chicago, toward Peotone. Available evidence, however, shows the main thrust of development is along the I-90 corridor from Chicago toward Rockford.

Rockford’s rusty machinery is beginning to creak into action in a belated effort to market what we have in airport facilities.

Let’s hope it gets up to speed fairly rapidly. And if our new mayor wants to move Rockford from its present stance as the second largest village in Illinois, he might change the fiefdom mentality and good ol’ boys club that rules at the airport and focus on becoming a municipal asset instead of a tax-supported liability. But don’t hold your breath.

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