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Centre pledges $250,000 in ARPA funds to attract American Airlines

Charlotte connection?

PHOTO COURTESY HAPPY VALLEY ADVENTURE BUREAU The Universiy Park Airport in State College could soon be seeing American Airlines flights to and from Charlotte, N.C. The Centre County commissioners are using $250,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to try and lure the airline to the Centre Region.

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County Board of Commissioners allocated $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding toward the incentive pool to attract American Airlines to the University Park Airport during Tuesday’s meeting.

The idea is to bring connecting flights to Charlotte’s International Airport. There would be a minimum of 12 flights per week, they said. The ARPA allocation was approved unanimously.

County administrator Margaret Gray explained the reason behind the allocation.

“The Board of Commissioners recently had some conversations and discussions with the Airport Authority and as a result of those discussions learned that the Airport Authority along with University Park Airport was considering making some overtures to American Airlines for expanded air service … as we all know, expanded air service is really one of the keys to attracting new business and expanded businesses in our region,” Gray said. “We’ve been told numerous times that if we could expand the air service in and out of our University Park Airport that we stand a much better chance of attracting additional businesses to the county.”

Gray also said that expanded air service also opens up tourism and “lots of opportunities” for Centre County residents to travel outside the area.

Chair Michael Pipe said that the incentive package is “exciting.”

“Charlotte is an international airport. The exciting part of that is the tourism aspect for folks coming into our area … but also us traveling out. It reduces connections that individuals would have to take …. Charlotte really links them with a lot of possibilities. That’s very exciting,” Pipe said.

He also said that the ARPA funding would help the airport coming out of the pandemic.

“It really took a financial hit in the previous 18 months. This would really allow them to see a lot of that travel return,” Pipe said.

Pipe also noted that other municipalities will likely pledge funds toward the incentive pool, though Patton Township was the lone municipality to commit thus far, pledging $12,500. Other municipalities that would likely take part include State College Borough, Bellefonte Borough, College Township and Harris Township.

Pipe said that the other municipalities are expected to let the BOC know by this coming Friday.

“Fingers crossed,” Pipe said of the plan. “But I think this will really put us on good footing.”

Commissioner Mark Higgins noted that the contribution is a “one time pledge.”

“If American Airlines does not take our offer, then we will be retaining those funds,” Higgins said.

He also said that attracting American Airlines would create jobs — not only at the airport, but throughout the Centre Region.

“The tourism goes both ways. People (will be) flying into Centre County and taking advantage of the wonderful tourism opportunities in Centre County,” Higgins said.

Commissioner Steve Dershem agreed.

“I think one of the real benefits of this is that you are going to start seeing a lot of interest from Fortune 500 companies that really want to have a presence here in Centre County,” Dershem said. “It will give them the opportunity to have the transportation base that they require for their business models.”

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— Approved Proclamation No. 27, proclaiming September 2021 as “Hunger Action Month” in Centre County.

— Approved Proclamation No. 28, proclaiming September 2021 as “National Library Card Sign Up Month” in Centre County.

— Approved an Agency Service Agreement with PayGOV.US, LLC to provide operator assisted and internet processing payment services to accept payments on the county’s behalf made using credit and debit cards. Cardholders will be charged a service fee. This contract is at no cost to the county. The item was moved to next week’s consent agenda.

— Approved the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) Expense and Data Report for fiscal year 2020-21. The project total is $80,801, which is state-funded for the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

— Approved a waiver to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to allow for telehealth work to be conducted as needed to address client service requests.

The Board of Commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21. The meeting will be held in person and masks are required. The meeting will be televised live by C-NET.

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