LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)— The La Crosse Municipal Airport is putting together a two-fold plan to boost business, which has been in a steady decline since 2007.
“We’re down about 20 percent, since 2007,” said Clint Torp, the airport manager.
Part of the reason is ticket prices. Flying in and out of a smaller airport costs more. For example right now if you purchase a ticket to Orlando using the same airline and the same travel dates, it’s about $100 more to fly from la Crosse than Minneapolis.
So part one of the plan includes the airport is teaming up with local tourism to combat the cost differences.
“I’ve been in a number of meetings with Clint this year where we actually sat down and done brainstorming,” said Dave Clements, the executive director of the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“The big thing that we’ll be rolling out with some marketing campaigns that we’re working on right now is really look at the full cost of travel,” Torp said. “So while you’re ticket may be slightly higher, you need to factor in the cost of driving your vehicle up to Minneapolis or Madison.”
And there’s the cost of parking. Long term parking in La Crosse is $7 a day and in Minneapolis it’s $22.
In addition to the marketing campaign, part two of the plan includes renovations on both the exterior and interior of the airport.
“Primarily you’re going to see the rehabilitation so we’re going to be replacing a lot of the interior of the building,” Torp said. “We’re also looking at pretty major changes in the layout of the building but again those are contingent upon designs and needs.”
Torp and Clements say all the work to increase the number of travelers is because maintaining an airport in town is an asset to the local economy.
Clements says having an airport is essential to anyone looking to host a convention in La Crosse.
“Across the board, whether its conventions, or local businesses bringing in clients or even tourism, a viable, vibrant airport is very important to us,” Clements said.
“The airport contributes well over $30 million economic impact to the community on an annual basis, that’s jobs, helping to alert new companies to come to the area and obviously it’s a gateway to the world for everyone in the community,” Torp said.
Torp says FAA funding will be critical for the renovation project and though the amount of funding is dependent on the number of plane passengers per year, the decline they’ve seen isn’t enough to drastically impact the funding, at least in the short term.
The renovations to the exterior of the airport should be done by next spring. Changes to the terminal, however, won’t be done until at least the fall of 2015.