Willard Airport presents incentive plan to MTD

Mar. 28—SAVOY — As in-person meetings with airlines approach, public entities have pledged a total of $660,000 in funding commitments for Willard Airport’s efforts to attract leisure services to new destinations.

Airport officials met with the Champaign-Urbana Transit District board Wednesday to discuss their proposed minimum revenue guarantee. No action has been taken, but something will likely happen at the next MTD board meeting, scheduled for April 24.

The University of Illinois, which owns the airport, offered a minimum revenue guarantee of $500,000, first come, first served, for service to any Florida airport or to Phoenix or Las Vegas.

The long-term goal, Willard consultant Jack Penning told MTD’s board Wednesday, is “to recruit multiple routes to this airport over a period of several years.”

And, of course, to “recruit beyond (current only) American (Airlines) to make sure this airport is sustainable,” with a national pilot shortage Penning says will only get worse.

This has already taken a toll at other airports in the United States, he said, with 131 of them losing a network carrier since 2000.

The short-term goal hasn’t changed: Willard hopes to raise a community contribution of $500,000 so he can provide a guaranteed minimum total income of at least $1 million.

Airport Executive Director Tim Bannon told The News-Gazette that the following entities have also decided to participate so far:

Champagne:

*$75,000.

*$50,000.

Savoy:

*$20,000.

Champaign County:

*$15,000.

Willard officials have also discussed the project with the village of Rantoul and several private entities.

Alan Nudo, an MTD board member and Willard advocate, proposed that the agency go further than other contributors with its financial commitment, adding to its first pledge an “ongoing pledge, if necessary.”

“When revenues go down, you have to replenish those reserves,” he said.

Bannon said the university is committed to having its funds used first before community matching…

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