The executive director of South Bend International Airport says a general aviation facility for international flights is set to open this month and will deliver an economic boost. Mike Daigle says the $11 million project, which involves a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station, will help keep some travel dollars local that would otherwise leave for other cities such as Chicago. The first flight outside the U.S. is expected to be to Cancun. He says the new facility will also bring in aircraft that currently land in other cities.
A separate federal inspection station will open shortly after the general aviation area is complete. Last September, South Bend-based Ziolkowski Construction Inc. was awarded a $9 million contract to build the facility.
Daigle tells Inside INdiana Business a 2012 survey got the ball rolling on the project. The study put Cancun at the "top of the pile," Daigle says, for international leisure destinations. Some 15,000 passengers traveled to the Mexican hot spot the year the research was conducted. SBN has been focusing on Cancun since international hub plans were first laid out. Daigle says airport officials currently aren’t close on pinpointing other global targets, but work on additional destinations will begin once the new facilities open.
The airport is coming off a year of growth. A February report showed passenger traffic increased four percent year-over-year. The 2012 study pegged the economic impact of SBN at more than $1.7 billion.