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Gov. Pat Quinn has inked a bill that could be both a boon to regional air travelers and create a critical weapon in the battle to protect and grow the Rock Island Arsenal.

The Chicago Democrat traveled to the Quad City International Airport Saturday to sign a measure that included a hard-fought subsidy to attract daily air service from the Quad City International Airport to Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. It represents a modest state investment with the potential to pay huge dividends locally, regionally and statewide. Such revenue guarantees are common and it’s not hard to see why. In the beginning, these routes are likely to be money losers, not money-makers so airlines request government help to get them running and test the market. Whether a daily D.C. flight ever truly takes flight will soon be up to the people of the Quad-Cities area.

It was fitting that Gov. Quinn was joined by state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, who negotiated the tricky legislative manuevers require to get the measure through the Illinois House, and Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who shouldered that duty in the Senate.

Prominent too at Saturday’s celebration were leaders of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce whose dogged, nonstop efforts helped to put this critical issue on the General Assembly’s and the governor’s radar.

The bill bumps grants provided by the Illinois I-FLY Act from $1 million to $1.5 million and extends them from two to three years. The money can be used to pay 80 percent of any revenue guarantee offered by the airport authority to an airline to retain or extend its flights.

Gov. Quinn also was required to sign another bill naming Moline as recipient of I-FLY funds. The governor was expected to have taken action on it before today. If he hasn’t already, we hope he does so quickly so that chamber leaders can sew up a key piece in their negotiations with an as-yet-unnamed airline to provide daily Dulles service here, as well as firm up sources for the 20 percent local match the grants require.

Though some suggest government grants like I-FLY are aimed at making life easier for corporations, politicians and the wealthy, we believe making it possible for passengers to board at Quad City International and arrive at Dulles without getting off the plane offers significant benefits to the community, state, region, even the nation .

This job-creator would benefit businesses like Deere & Co, as well as protect the more than 7,700 jobs on the Arsenal from future BRACs. It also would be a boon to the more than 500 defense contractors in the Quad-Cities located here because of the Arsenal. Pentagon officials and others they have lobbied in Washington have repeatedly told Chamber leaders communities which survive base closure and realignment rounds often have direct air access to D.C. This will help level the Q-C playing field.

Passengers from at least a 90-mile radius of the airport would also be better served. We’re told Reagan National Airport in Washington already is the No. 11 destination for Q-C travelers. If locals could catch a daily flight to Dulles, we suspect many more of them would travel to our nation’s capital. Quad City Airport travelers wanting to visit the East coast and those who wish to travel internationally also would directly benefit from a Dulles connection.

A daily D.C. flight long has been at the top of economic development and tourism leaders’ wish lists because of the boost it would provide to the region. We salute all who made this significant step forward in providing it possible. It is a bold experiment that will require the support of the Quad-Cities to be successful.

Indeed, once an airline signs a deal to begin daily flights here, whether this welcome amenity and crucial economic development tool ever truly gets off the ground will be up to all of us.

 

Original Source: QConline.com, “Editorial: D.C. flight grant cheered; now its success up to Q-Cs“
Image credit: http://business.clintonia.com/list/member/quad-city-international-airport-moline-2544

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