By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The day in which area residents fly out of Stillwater Regional Airport rather than driving to Oklahoma City or Tulsa to catch a flight is closer at hand.
The city of Stillwater received a $447,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., congratulated Stillwater and Lawton, another city receiving a grant, in their accomplishments.
“Commercial air services provide a critical access point to the global economy and supports community development and economic expansion,” said Inhofe. “These grants, when matched with local funds, will allow their communities to compete for commercial air services that may otherwise be unobtainable. I look forward to seeing the additional opportunities these grants provide and hope they quickly help expand commercial air service in Oklahoma.”
Stillwater Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Navrkal said the project has been in the works for several years with a group of organizations in partnership, including Oklahoma State University, the city of Stillwater, the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce and the Stillwater Regional Airport looking at similar communities with commercial flight service such as Manhattan, Kan. A business travel survey conducted in 2012 showed positive results.
“We feel that the usage would be there,” Navrkal said.
Stillwater Airport Director Gary Johnson said the partnership between the Stillwater entities was important in landing the grant.
However, the next step in the process is securing a commercial airline.
“We look at it under the veil of economic development,” he said. “It’s an effort that takes a strong partnership between all the entities that are involved and the airline has to see that and believe in that partnership and the marketplace and efforts that are ongoing with that. Of course, their bottom line is that we can support the service by putting people on board.
“That’s going to be our challenge and has been. We believe we can do that.”
Some of the money from the grant will go toward marketing once a service has been established.
“That’s, I think, a critical role once we get an agreement with an airline; the marketing and selling of the convenience and time saving with flying direct from your community,” he said.
Navrkal agreed with the sentiment.
“Why wouldn’t you, if you lived in Stillwater and the surrounding area, drive five minutes to the airport instead of driving an hour and a half?” she said.
With funding secured, Johnson looks forward to the next step.
“It will be very helpful in the overall efforts in the next year,” he said.