At its regular monthly meeting of July 11, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) took action to assure and enhance affordable airfares in Kansas by approving public funding in support of airline service from Wichita and Garden City.
Applications for the Fiscal Year 2012 Kansas Affordable Airfares Program (KAAP) were awarded in the amount of $4.75 million for the Sedgwick County proposal for Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport and $250,000 for the Garden City Regional Airport. The $5 million total was approved by the 2011 Kansas Legislature and marks the 6th year of the program.
Inclusion of the Garden City request marks the first expansion of the KAAP program beyond Sedgwick County. The two requests for funding were received by the REAP Executive Committee Wednesday, July 6, and recommended for approval.
The Sedgwick County application included evidence that previous KAAP funding resulted in a successful investment providing low-fare air service to eastern and western United States destinations as a result of more flight options and more competition among carriers. The original request asked for $5 million, and the $250,000 difference is expected to be made up by Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita.
The Garden City proposal represents a partnership with Dodge City, located about 50 miles southeast of Garden City. The funding will allow the regional airport to initiate commercial jet service to Dallas, and will serve a population area of about 440,000 persons. Under the partnership, Dodge City agrees to designate $1 million of its annual federal Emergency Air Service funding in support of the Garden City Regional Airport. The Dodge City Airport will continue to operate, but will not offer any commercial air service.
“As administrators of the state grant, the REAP governing body recognizes the importance of maintaining the transparency and integrity of the program,” stated REAP Chair, Mayor Kristey Williams of Augusta. "Our action today specifically addresses statutory objectives and the KAAP continues to be a successful economic tool for the state’s economy.”
“The successful application by Garden City for a Western Kansas regional airport is an important historical marker for the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program,” she said. “This new innovative regional partnership will bring significant economic rewards to southwest Kansas, which in turn will benefit the entire state and strengthen Kansas’s ability to remain globally competitive.”
Approval of the Garden City request was also praised by state Rep. Reynaldo Mesa, R-Garden City, who was part of a Garden City delegation appearing Wednesday before the REAP Executive Committee.
“Our community is extremely grateful to the REAP board for approving our application for Affordable Airfares funding,” Rep. Mesa said in a statement following the REAP action Monday. “Southwest Kansas recognizes the importance of collaborative efforts and a regional perspective. The partnership between Garden City and Dodge City is a remarkable tribute to spirit of regionalism that is an absolute necessity in these challenging economic times. The governing bodies of Garden City and Dodge City, along with their staffs, deserve great credit for this bold step. The creation of a regional airport will bring major economic benefits to our region, which in turn strengthens the economy of the entire state.”
REAP is a council of local governments comprised of 37 cities and counties in South Central Kansas. These local governments have voluntarily joined together to guide state and national actions that affect economic development in the region and to adopt joint actions among member governments that enhance the regional economy.
Under the authority of House Substitute for Senate Bill 475 and the omnibus appropriation bill, Senate Bill 2968, both enacted in the 2006 session of the Kansas Legislature, REAP was assigned authority for administering the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program. In the 2011 legislative session, Governor Brownback recommended and the Kansas Legislature appropriated $5 million for continued funding of KAAP as has been recommended each year since 2006.
To learn more about REAP, go to www.reap-ks.org or contact Joe Yager at 316-978-6542 (email@example.com).