Paul Wible
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

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February 24, 2013
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Vail Chamber: Air service collaboration needed

Collaboration has been a buzzword around town this season and definitely in the realm of the EGE Air Alliance and its continued efforts to preserve a healthy flight schedule to the valley. Every business and personal income in Eagle County is either directly or indirectly affected by the Vail/Eagle County Regional Airport. A 2008 Colorado Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics study illustrates the quantifiable impact that the airport has on Eagle County:

• $982,170,400 in indirect economic impact (hotels, retail, restaurant, etc.).

• 10,467 jobs (250 direct airport employees).

• $293,886,700 in payroll for jobs created.

• $6.4 million in state and local tax receipts collected/paid by airport tenants.

The airport ranks as the 176th busiest commercial airport in the U.S., with approximately 163,000 enplanements in winter and 31,000 in summer. Over the past five years, the community has lost 27 percent of the available seats into EGE.

The EGE Air Alliance is a 501c6 not-for-profit entity dedicated to creating a vibrant flight service program at the Eagle County Regional Airport. The EGE Air Alliance is a public-private partnership with participants including local municipalities and private business stakeholders.

The original focus of the Alliance was summer service. In 2002, a small group of business leaders and several government entities made it possible to sign an agreement with American Airlines for daily nonstop 757 service from Dallas/Fort Worth. That agreement included certain revenue guarantees by the Alliance for American, for which the Alliance paid minor amounts the first few years to secure the service. However, after three years, the flight proved successful enough that American Airlines dropped the guarantee requirements. The service has since been expanded to include September in addition to the traditional "summer" program, which operates from mid-June to the last week in September at no financial risk to the Alliance on behalf of the community.

Currently, the Alliance is working on behalf of the valley-wide community to secure a nonstop flight from Houston this summer on United Airlines, five days a week, June 27 to Sept. 7.

Why Houston?

• Texas is the highest percentage of second-home owners in the valley.

• Texas is among the top three origins of out-of-state visitors to the Vail Valley.

• Houston serves as one of the largest hubs for United Airlines for other feeder markets for connection to the non-stop flight to EGE.

Fundraising goals:

• For 2013: $621,000 total funding needed to secure Houston flight, $396,000 from private commercial business valleywide.

• For 2014 and beyond: Establish a long-term sustainable public-private funding model to ensure air service at the airport is here to stay and will continue to grow.

Future target markets for air service growth:

• Continue Houston flight in summer.

• Chicago summer service.

• Toronto winter service.

• Washington, D.C., winter service.

The total funding target for 2014 and beyond is between $1.8 million and $2.4 million.

It has never been more important than now to work with your community and collaborate in an effort to bring more vitality and tourism dollars to our economy. I am asking the private businesses in Eagle County to please join the EGE Air Alliance and me in raising $396,000 to secure the Houston flight for this summer and to ultimately support growing our local airport by as many as 18,000 seats in the summer and another 2,640 in the winter, which is estimated to have $42,931,000 in total economic impact to Eagle County. The Vail Chamber and Business Association supports the EGE Air Alliance effort and urges all its members to pledge what they can. Pledge forms containing suggested levels of support can be obtained from the Vail Valley Partnership at cromer@visitvailvalley.com or from AirPlanners at kent@airplanners.net.

Stay involved and stay informed. If you are not already receiving the VCBA weekly e-newsletter, all you need to do is email us at info@vailchamber.org to start receiving it.

The Vail Chamber and Business Association is the leading business advocacy group in Vail and is a communications outlet for businesses that want to have a voice in community affairs. If you are interested in finding out more about the Vail Chamber and Business Association and what we have to offer to businesses in and that do business in Vail, please contact us at 970-477-0075 or email info@vailchamber.org. Our office is located on the top level of the Vail Transportation Center in Vail Village. Stop by and say hello!

Paul Wible is executive vice president of FirstBank Vail and a Vail Chamber and Business Association board member.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 24, 2013 10:49PM Published Feb 24, 2013 10:48PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.