BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tri-Cities Airport officials say a route to Chicago has been in high demand for some time by business travelers. This is why the airport is applying for a grant to bring this route back for the first time post-9/11.
“We open up Chicago, that opens up even more easier connections to all over the world,” said Tri-Cities Airport Executive Director, Gene Cossey.
Cossey said the airport had a Chicago route around 20 years ago that was cut due to route changes after 9/11. There were efforts to bring it back, but then the great recession of 2008 hit.
Now, they’re trying again, saying the route offers opportunities for economic growth.
“It’s the connections that it enables us to have all over the United States and the world,” said CEO of the regional organization, NETNHub, Dennis Philips.
NETNHub is a collection of businesses and organizations from the region, focused on regionalism, which is economic development in the area.
They have raised $50,000 in support of the airport adding another flight. Philips said the airport is one of NETNHub’s main focuses regarding avenues to economic growth.
“One of the biggest things is the airport,” said Philips. “How is the air service? And to add additional air service is probably in the top two or three things that you could do in recruiting new industry to this area.”
The capacity that a new flight route would bring is welcomed at the airport.
“And right now we have a lot of available capacity,” said Cossey. “Now we hope to get to the problem where we say, ‘Oh no, we just don’t have enough room anymore.’ That’s a great problem for us to have.”
The grant application is due May 17. If the airport is accepted for the grant, they will not receive the money until the fall.
The airline that will provide the Chicago route to the airport has not been determined yet. Airport officials say it is up to the airline to choose to start service at the airport.