GH Chamber Backs Muskegon Airport

March 7, 2003
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GRAND HAVEN — Seeing a benefit for the broader region, directors at the chamber of commerce in Grand Haven are backing an initiative designed to significantly increase passenger traffic and lure jet service to Muskegon County Airport.

Like its counterpart in Muskegon that initiated the effort, The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg will encourage its members to commit to using Muskegon County Airport for business travel.

Backing the initiative, spearheaded by the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, is part of trying to take a more regional view of issues affecting the business community, Grand Haven Chamber President Joy Gaasch said. The Grand Haven chamber’s board of directors endorsed the effort late last month.

“There’s so much synergy between the Muskegon County businesses and northwest Ottawa County businesses, it makes sense to work together,” Gaasch said. “We’re interconnected in so many ways. The boundary lines do not mean anything to commerce.”

The Muskegon chamber’s goal is to increase Muskegon County Airport’s market share within the lakeshore region from 25 percent to 35 percent within two years and spur its largest carrier, Northwest Airlines, to commence jet service, while in the process strengthening the region’s economic viability through an improved air transportation system.

The Muskegon chamber hopes to help further grow the airport’s market share to 55 percent within five years, bring a third airline to Muskegon that will provide jet service, and add flights to and from a new regional hub, preferably Minneapolis.

Muskegon County Airport’s two air carriers provide 16 commuter flights daily between Muskegon and regional air hubs in Detroit and Milwaukee. The airport’s passenger traffic declined 8 percent in 2002, from 81,103 to 74,297 passengers, largely because of the loss of one airline that provided service between Muskegon and Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The basis of the initiative is to help Muskegon County Airport increase passenger volumes to the point where airlines, as they deploy new jet-powered aircraft in the coming years that business and leisure travelers prefer to fly, will implement commuter jet service locally. About 60 percent of Muskegon County Airport’s passenger volume comes from business travelers.

In backing the Muskegon chamber’s initiative, the Grand Haven chamber is taking yet another step toward improving relations between two communities whose leaders for years have not always gotten along so well.

Relations, at least in the business sector, have markedly improved in recent years. The Grand Haven chamber two years ago, seeing the potential spin-off benefits locally, endorsed Muskegon’s SmartZone application to the state and the two organizations are in the third year of jointly planning an annual business showcase this May.

Gaasch sees endorsing the airport initiative as taking another step forward and further strengthening ties between the two organizations and “opening the door” for future collaboration on regional issues in the future. Improved business ties now can also help the two overcome differences that may crop up in the future, she said.

“It’s a new era,” Gaasch said. “Our concern is our business community and the viability of our businesses, and the success of our businesses hinges on the success of our communities. And you can’t separate them.”               

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