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From the Director’s Desk: We need YOU to help MLI grow

January 4, 2023

Our region is fortunate to have so many choices for air travel within driving distance. But as the airport director, it creates challenges particularly at a time when airlines still aren’t profitable following the pandemic and resources are constrained by staffing shortages. This is the reality of the industry and the issues we are confronted with when we advocate to airlines for increased air service. However, community support can become the tipping point and we’ve seen it work for other airports.

Commitment to business growth

Airline network planners consider many data points when planning air service, and chief among them is evidence that a community is growing and relies heavily on air travel to conduct their business.

Being home to the global headquarters of John Deere is a major advantage to MLI, but Deere can’t carry the community alone. It takes well-established business like IMEG continuing its explosive growth and continuing to call the Quad Cities home.

It also requires a diligent and dedicated effort to bring the best and brightest entrepreneurs to the QC because we believe there’s no better place to put down roots. This is why having a strong Chamber of Commerce focused on making our region the best place to do business is so important.

Commitment to tourism

Community growth efforts are inextricably linked with tourism. Every visitor is a potential resident – you need only look at Nashville as an example of how turning your city into a destination yields growth from people wanting to live there.

Tapping into this opportunity requires willingness to invest in marketing our community beyond the Quad Cities and beyond the Midwest. Visit Quad Cities is doing fantastic work propelling our region forward, but it will take the collaboration of cities on both sides of the river. We need to celebrate our wins no matter where they occur, and support our CVB so they can amplify all the wonderful venues, attractions and activities we have to offer.

Commitment to sharing resources

We sometimes get asked: can’t you just buy air service? And the answer is…sort of. I’ll explain.

Data that demonstrates a growing region both in terms of businesses and population will always be the best way to attract new air service. Airlines need to be confident that a route will be sustainable. “Buying” a route that has no chance of surviving isn’t wise for the airport or the airline. However, when a community or region can rally around the airport and provide incentives, that can sometimes be an accelerant.

The FAA has a lot of stipulations to prevent misuse of public funds. So to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, it takes a concentrated effort by the local Chamber of Commerce and often local businesses to create a campaign, backed by incentives that can sometimes tip the scale in your favor. This is especially the case if airlines are weighing starting service in markets that are relatively close together. If an airline is going to start service, we want the Quad Cities to be the best option out of all the Illinois airports.

The Quad Cities cannot be left in the dust – whether it’s growing our businesses, investing in tourism or rallying behind a cause that will benefit our residents.

There are challenges but none that are insurmountable with a collaborative effort. I’d love to be able to call my shot for 2023 and predict that amazing things will happen. But change takes time and it can start today. What I can commit to is using every bit of my resources and influence to get the Quad Cities the win we all deserve.

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