Port Authority Seeks $500K Federal Grant, Pledges Match for YNG Passenger Service

VIENNA, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation that seeks a $500,000 grant to help underwrite a $1.4 million bid to re-establish passenger air service from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

The application was filed Friday under the Small Community Air Service Development Program on behalf of Trumbull and Mahoning counties. It says the $500,000 federal grant, to be paid over two years, would be matched by $500,000 in local funding. An additional $412,000 would be provided by $100,000 in marketing support paid for by YNG and the waiver of airport fees ($313,000).

With the federal grant, the airport would establish “six-plus weekly service [flights] between YNG and a network carrier hub airport providing interline connectivity via American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and/or United Airlines on a year-round basis via a multi-engine equipped aircraft,” the application states.

The passenger service would be on aircraft with 30 or fewer seats. While Chicago/O’Hare is the preferred destination, other airport hubs would be considered. “At the time of this application, YNG is heavily engaged in discussions related to the opportunity for new entrant carrier service with two potential domestic airlines,” the document states.

The two-year local match would consist of $250,000 from Jobs Ohio, $150,000 from the port authority and $100,000 from Youngstown-Warren Development Partners, a private economic development nonprofit organization formed in 2017 and previously known as Youngstown Energy Partners.

On June 9, the nonprofit’s articles of incorporation were amended to change its name from Youngstown Energy Partners to Youngstown-Warren Development Partners, according to public records, with its stated purpose to assist the Western Reserve Port Authority.

The federal funding would be used by the port authority “to support a minimum revenue guarantee for a two-year period following the initial service launch,” according to the application.

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport previously was awarded grants from the Small Community Air Service Development Program in 2005, 2007 and 2012. Regular passenger service ceased in 2018.

What’s different in this request, the application says, is that it is not seeking passenger service on 50- to 90-seat aircraft.

“This application contends that several factors have changed to make YNG’s pursuit of such service of comparatively greater viability in the current market and industry landscape,” it says.

In addition to aircraft size, the regional airport “catchment traffic has grown relative to traffic levels … [that] coincides with increased fares.”

The application also references the region’s low cost of living, which has stimulated the housing market, the 3.3% increase in manufacturing jobs in the region over the past year, the arrival of Foxconn in Lordstown, and the investment of millions of dollars to support manufacturing sector growth, innovation and workforce development.

“While new economic activity and interest in corporate investment in the market is flourishing, the market’s primary pushback is a lack of connectivity to the U.S. passenger air travel system. It is the YNG market’s lack of commercial air service that makes it a particularly strong and viable candidate for [federal] funds and serves as the basis for the market’s principal objectives and strategies for leveraging those funds,” the application says.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.