Article originally posted to (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal Web site
By KEN SHMIDHEISER, Managing Editor and CHRIS HARRIS, Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Has the time come for the Lake Cumberland region to become a hub in the nation’s air travel network? Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation hopes to answer that question now that commercial airline carriers are again expressing interest in locating passenger airline service in Somerset.
Yesterday, Martin Shearer, executive director of Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation, and Luke Schmidt, president of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, announced the launch of a regional survey of air travelers. The purpose of the survey will be to confirm both existing and future air travel patterns, and the demand for passenger airline service in the Somerset region.
During the past two years, community leaders have been quietly working to develop new airline service at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport (also known by its three letter identification code, SME). This effort has included updating the market profile, establishing a target list of potential providers of commercial air service and recruiting the providers to Lake Cumberland Regional.
The survey is targeted towards 137,000 Facebook users across southcentral Kentucky. In addition to Pulaski County, input is being sought from residents of in Bell, Casey, Clay, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Lincoln, McCreary, Owsley, Rockcastle, Russell, Wayne and Whitley counties. The survey can be accessed by visiting:
This month two years ago as the economy continued to sour, Locair, a Florida-based airline carrier terminated passenger service at the airport here following the expiration of a million-dollar federal grant that made the flights possible.
“Business and industry leaders throughout the region have asked repeatedly when air service will be restored to SME,” Shearer noted.
Today, with the stock market at its highest levels in years, and the number of people seeking unemployment near a four-year low, Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation feels the time has come to respond.
The airport’s attractive $1 million terminal is now staffed and being used by the private aviation community as attested by a jet parked on the tarmac outside the Kit Cowan Road terminal yesterday.
“The Foundation recognizes the important role that airline service can play in not only providing a valuable service for our residents, but also in helping to attract new jobs to the region,” Shearer said.
As part of its efforts to restore air service at Lake Cumberland Regional, the Foundation retained Louisville-based consulting firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC to assist in the effort. The consulting firm updated the market profile, which recognizes that the airport will serve 15 Kentucky counties with a combined population of 384,000 people. The firm has also identified several potential providers of air service and has met with each of these companies to introduce the Somerset market. The focus now turns to a regional survey of air travelers to fully understand where people from this region travel to and how often.
“Today, we are announcing the launch of our survey which is open to any and all business and industry representatives, professionals and individuals who travel by air for any reason—business or personal,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to the Foundation. “We have designed a short, easy to complete survey which will help us to understand just where people from this region fly to and how often they fly. And, in order to help drive participation, we are using social media, specifically Facebook, in an effort to reach the largest number of potential users of SME airport.”
“The survey will help us to better understand the market and the demand for airline service in this region,” said Schmidt. “More importantly, a robust level of participation in the survey will help to match this market to the right provider.” The survey period will continue through February 24, 2012.
Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation serves as the economic development arm for the Somerset and Pulaski County, Kentucky region. The Foundation facilitates the development of new jobs by recruiting world-class firms to the community and also assists existing business and industry through the expansion of existing facilities.