For more than half a century there has been scheduled airline service at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. Those commercial flights coupled with the airport's state-of-the-art facilities for corporate and charter traffic help keep the region prosperous.
Relatively few communities the size of Fort Dodge can boast of air service that matches what currently exists here. This is not simply a matter of convenience for the infrequent traveler. It is vital to the plans to keep major employers here and attract new ones.
Businesses tend to locate in spots that afford executives and sales representatives, as well as clients and customers, easy access to air travel. It is not an accident that major companies tend to be located close to airports.
Scheduled air service - as well as the airport's excellent facilities for corporate and charter flights - give Fort Dodge and other area communities an edge in the increasingly tough competition to keep and attract the companies that can make our economy grow.
Unfortunately, Delta Air Lines will be ending its service to Fort Dodge in the not too distant future. The good news, however, is that three airlines are competing to provide replacement commercial flights to the local airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation will determine which proposal is selected because the airline chosen will receive a subsidy from the federal government.
The proposals differ somewhat. Appropriately, area residents are being given the opportunity to provide input to DOT regarding the choice. Comments can be sent by email to EAS@dot.gov and must be received by Nov. 21.
Those airlines contending to serve our community are:
Great Lakes Airlines, offering three flights a day to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota (21 round-trips per week).
Sovereign Air Inc., offering 19 round-trips a week to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Air Choice One, offering two flights a day to either Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or Chicago O'Hare International Airport in Illinois.
According to Rhonda Chambers, the airport's director of aviation, the Great Lakes proposal offers the level of service that is most like what is available now. She told The Messenger last week that Great Lakes would give passengers seamless connections with Delta and four other airlines flying to places all over the country and the world.
The DOT's decision is important to the future of Fort Dodge. Take the time to be heard on this important matter.
The inescapable truth is that even those Fort Dodgers who never personally board a plane here have an enormous stake in the success of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. The economic prospects of our town and the prosperity of neighboring communities are enhanced by the presence of commercial air service and a well-run, up-to-date airport.
The number of passengers using flights into or out of Fort Dodge has increased dramatically in recent months. This is strong evidence that as the economy improves further in the months ahead, the importance of our local airport will grow. Keeping the airport strong is a key element in the game plan to build a robust local economy as the 21st century unfolds.