It started with complaints from businesses that do business globally…they could not reach their customers and their customers could not reach them in a timely fashion. That conversation in 2015 led to establishment of a task force that ultimately grew to be the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance, a 501c6 organization that is working to secure more flights, particularly direct flights into and out of the Grand Junction Regional Airport.
From the beginning, Chamber staff in close collaboration with GJEP staff contributed the staff time and overhead to make the Alliance a reality. Today Diane Schwenke and Robin Brown act as Executive Directors. Meetings are held at the Chamber and Chamber staff develop the agendas and keep the corporation’s minutes. Voting directors are composed of five members appointed by GJEP and five members appointed by the Chamber with one member appointed by the ten directors.
The effort took a huge step forward with the passage of the 3% increase in the lodging tax in the fall of 2018. Chamber staff, in collaboration with the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission and the Visit Grand Junction Advisory Board worked tirelessly to inform voters on how this really was a tax that they did not pay and one they would see real benefits from. The Air Service Alliance receives 1% of this new tax and recently pledged their first year’s income to match a $900,000 grant application to the Federal Aviation Administration to provide a minimum revenue guarantee to an airline that would deliver daily direct flights to the West Coast, preferably San Francisco. Such guarantees are necessary in order to ensure that an airline flying that route will not lose money as competition for new service is fierce among commercial airports of our size.
It is anticipated that we may know as early as October if the application is successful in which case negotiations would begin immediately with a carrier in hopes of having direct flights to the West Coast on a daily basis by mid to late 2020.
For almost four years the Chamber has been a strong partner in this effort to improve the business climate with board members and staff devoting countless hours to all of the steps that were necessary to get us to this point. GJEP, Grand Junction Regional Airport, City of Grand Junction, Visit GJ, Greater Grand Junction Sports Authority and Mesa County have all played significant roles. Diane Schwenke, Chamber CEO notes, “We look forward to delivering even better news about our connectivity to the world in 2020 due to this collaboration to improve our commercial air service.”
Click here to download the full version of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce August 2019 Newsletter.