INDIANAPOLIS - As airports throughout the state continue the battle to land more nonstop service options, the Indianapolis Airport Authority board is moving forward with a partnership designed to tap into the resources and connections of the business community. The IAA board of directors has approved a year-long development deal with the Indy Chamber's business unit Develop Indy concerning air service and land use opportunities. Airport Senior Director of Commercial Enterprise Marsha Stone tells Inside INdiana Business the arrangement helps demonstrate "full, community-wide backing" to airlines considering expanding to the state's largest airport.

Stone says buy-in from business is key. "It's different when an airport is going out and saying 'we need this route' versus the entire community standing behind it hand-in-hand," she says. "It truly is an expectation from the airlines." Stone says the up to $180,000 agreement is a "fairly typical model" for cities in the market for additional air service and related development.

On the air service side, the scope of the agreement includes Develop Indy:

  • leading community efforts to lock in corporate support for unserved markets considered strategic or priority for IND, such as a big key: a transatlantic route.
  • identifying in-demand corporate travel destinations by leveraging existing regional business retention and expansion visits
  • gathering a quarterly roundtable of regional business leaders to discuss air service needs with IAA officials
  • providing market research and data to support air service presentations
  • providing updates for local stakeholders during community briefings
  • participate in site visits from the airline industry and serve as an ambassador to the city's business community

As for land use and development efforts, Develop Indy's roles include:

  • assisting the IAA in "targeting and courting potential investors, developers, and end-users for Authority property" and putting the IAA's site selection and real estate network to work
  • providing "analytical and negotiating bandwidth" for evaluating company requests relating to development sites owned by IAA and serves as the point of contact for discussions involving tax incentives with the city
  • use of Develop Indy's regulatory and permitting ombudsman should issues come up during projects
  • initiate contact with existing businesses on IAA-owned property to determine how best Develop Indy can steer them toward their goals with the authority
  • coordinate development incentives with the state

With Friday's board approval, the agreement begins immediately. Stone calls the relationship between the authority and the chamber solid and says "I envision this as the start of a long-term relationship and this contract gets that started."

Last week, Alaska Airlines' first flight at IND flew to Seattle, a highly sought-after route for the tech community. Officials have been targeting additional direct destinations for several years and discussions on service to London Heathrow Airport have been ongoing. The state is also supporting similar objectives as the Develop Indy partnership. During this year's General Assembly, legislator's approved funding for IND and other airports throughout the state to bolster service expansion efforts.