Reporter: Paige Quiggins
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) – It is a project that has been in the works for quite a while and on Friday, officials in the city of Pikeville announced they have been able to secure funding to bring commercial air service to eastern Kentucky.
“If it’s ever going to happen, this is going to be the time,” said Jared Arnett, President/CEO of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Officials said that time has come.
“It’s just not conducive to the global economy to not have ticketed service right here locally,” said Arnett.
Arnett and many others said it was the time for officials to announce $1 million in multi-county coal severance money has been set aside to help bring commercial air service to the region.
City officials said it is an economic boost that will help industrial parks within the region. He said when they are told the closest airports are in Lexington or Louisville, it changed the game for some.
“When these site developers say ‘we want to come look at it’ and when we tell them you have to fly in and drive three hours, we really don’t even get into negotiation stage,” said Arnett.
“If we could have the opportunity where they could fly right in, see our sites, it would make a tremendous difference.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Jimmy Carter of the City of Pikeville said it will affect more than a dozen surrounding counties.
“This definitely makes us the hub of eastern Kentucky and with commercial air service, it solidifies the whole deal,” said Carter.
The project’s consultant said carriers must agree before the project fully takes off.
“We are in a great position to go and make our final push on recruiting with the two airlines who have expressed interest in this market so our intent to be now to get in front of them as quickly as we can,” said Luke Schmidt.
Schmidt said they could know that answer by March of next year and if the two considering commercial carriers commit by then, it will likely take six months to a year from then for the services to begin.
Officials said this million is in addition to a $750,000 federal grant which has already been set aside for the project.