EDITORIAL: Help to Delta Got Stuck on Runway
We urge the Moore County Board of Commissioners to revisit the matter of helping underwrite the marketing of Delta Air Lines service here.
The Airport Authority asked the county to appropriate $100,000 for that purpose. When the subject came up Monday, the commissioners didn't vote the proposal down. They didn't vote on it at all. Chairman Colin McKenzie tossed the matter out and asked for a motion. All he got was an uneasy silence from the other commissioners. "No motion, no action," McKenzie said, and the meeting moved on, leaving this very important question unconsidered.
The good news is that this unfortunate turn of events does not appear to reflect any commissioner consensus against the concept of having the county support Delta's marketing. Rather, it seems to have resulted from a procedural snafu. Partly because this board doesn't do as much off-screen scripting as some past ones have, nobody was primed to follow through on McKenzie's cue, and the moment was lost.
If Not Now, When?
During a discussion, Commissioner Tim Lea mentioned that the airport gets funds from hangar rental that never find their way back to county coffers. Airport Manager Ron Maness replied that the rental funds aren't supposed to go to the county, since the airport is still using them to pay off mortgages encountered when additional hangars were built some years ago.
Lea also questioned whether "now is the right time" for the allocation. But it is hard to imagine a more appropriate time, since 2006 is our make-or-break year. Delta is about to restart its daily scheduled passenger service to the Moore County Airport for a second trial year. Last year's showing was somewhat disappointing, partly because of an inconvenient schedule -- which has now been improved. If enough people use the service this time, it will probably become permanent. If not, Delta can be expected to pull the plug -- and it is likely to stay pulled.
"I hope they (commissioners) understand how important this is to the community," Maness says. "So much has gone into this already from the state and federal government, and much is promised for this year. But they're looking to us to do our part as well, and our portion of that is relatively small."
We All Stand to Benefit
In the interest of full disclosure, The Pilot might stand to benefit to a degree from part of the proposed advertising. But that is not our motivation here. In fact, Delta has decided to market our airport more in terms of "destination" than "origination" -- which means a lion's share of the budget is likely to be spent in Atlanta.
Delta, emerging from bankruptcy and with bigger concerns on its mind, has already spent more than $200,000 of its own money in marketing its Moore County flights. And the airline's Sky magazine (circulation five million) will soon feature a 26-page centerpiece story about our area -- a huge public-relations coup financed though advertising from local businesses.
The missing element here is county support. The commissioners should disregard arguments that only those hotels, resorts and stores that stand to benefit directly from visitors should pay for the marketing. Reliable air service is vitally important to all of us, and helping develop it is an altogether legitimate county government function.
Please take another look at it.
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