BLAINE (WCCO) — Step inside St. Cloud’s newly remodeled airport terminal and you’ll immediately notice that something is strangely absent — passengers.

The car rental booth is dark, a passenger jet way leads nowhere and the luggage carousel stands silent. A terminal built for commercial air service doesn’t have any!

“Certainly, the challenge is trying to attract air service back to our community,” said airport director Bill Towle.

Just months after investing $5 million worth of terminal improvements, Delta Airlines ended service from St. Cloud. That put roughly 50,000 leisure and business travelers a year in a bind. To catch a flight, they must now drive to Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport.

So, to attract a regional carrier to resume service from St. Cloud, the city is contemplating offering a $1 million incentive to prospective airlines. The money comprised of a federal grant as well as local and area business funding would essentially guarantee any carrier a profitable operation.

“When we go talk to air carriers, what they need now is some kind of a financial incentive to reduce the risk of coming out here,” said Towle.

That proposal is catching the attention of the St. Paul-based Minnesota 2020. It’s a progressive think tank that tackles public policy related issues facing the state.

“It’s extremely important to rural areas. It’s their connection to the wider world,” said Conrad deFiebre.

deFiebre is the author of a recently released report from the group called, Holding Pattern: Problems and Progress in Rural Aviation.

According to the report, rural air service is so important to out state Minnesota that unless the state does more to keep smaller airports healthy, economic growth will suffer.

One funding solution would shift revenue away from the current reliance on airplane registration fees and onto the fuel they burn.

“There are some credible proposals out there to reduce that (registration tax) while raising the aviation fuel tax, which has not been raised from its current five-cents a gallon since 1951,” said diFiebre.

The money could be used to help fund small airport operations and assure they remain open for the benefit of all general aviation users.

Bill Hudson

Comments (8)
  1. kos lis says:

    they should never remodel this gate terminal. they know delta pull out pretty soon. congress Michelle Bachmann helped to write a grant for this airport. this waste our tax money.

  2. CommonMan says:

    So much of our tax money is used on small air ports that are mostly used by private persons. It is one of the biggest rip offs of tax dollars ever. Talk about pork! This tax money that will never even come close to paying back 10% of what was spent on these almost private use airports. Just Google tax dollars spent on small airports and see what I am talking will make the protesters downtown seem like the should be at these airports protesting. And people wine about tax dollars for a viking stadium etc ha ha ha …

  3. Randy says:

    If you want to know your federal stimulus package dollars are small airports have to show off their brand new $400,000 runway, paid for by your tax dollars. … Asked why the costs at small airports shouldn’t be borne by the people who use them. No answers. Wat a rip off. This is theft! Please stop this…

  4. Frequent Flyer says:

    MSP is just a few years away from becoming (in proper context) eerily empty too. Delta just paid off their loan to MAC and now the MAC has no leverage over Delta to keep jobs or the hub in MSP.

    Just because NWA once was the MN airline and Delta once said they would not forsake MSP, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. We will go by the way of other major city airports – no direct flights and more expensive flights – if the MAC doesn’t start working on attracting other competing airlines here.

    1. Robert says:

      Excllent point!

  5. ML says:

    Another thread of uneducated people spewing complaints about “spending my tax money”… Many industries and job-creating businesses rely on a strong aviation system (i.e. small airports and runway improvements) to support their business in both the metro area and rural Minnesota. Yes, federal tax dollars support these airports, as they are part of the transportation system… just like roads and highways. NO STATE GENERAL FUND DOLLARS go to Minnesota airports. The state money supporting these airports come from the users, through aviation fuel taxes, aircraft registration taxes, and airline property taxes.