SOUTH BEND - An initiative aimed at boosting the regional economy in Michiana is showing early success. Project Propel launched last March and challenged businesses throughout the region to drive business travelers to fly at South Bend International Airport. Chris Murphy, chief executive officer of South Bend-based 1st Source Corp. (Nasdaq: SRCE), says that effort is paying off. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average growth of passenger traffic at airports in 2018 was 3-4 percent. However, the South Bend airport saw a 20 percent increase last year.

"Travel into and out of South Bend is easy," Murphy said at a news conference Thursday. "Project Propel is working and I hope and believe our success is just the beginning. There are leaders from businesses and organizations here or from across the region, whether they be business organizations or governmental units or academic institutions, those leaders have stepped up and made the commitment."

Murphy says the results mean the region has lowered the cost of doing business and earned the attention of national airlines who will look to provide even more services at the airport. He says Project Propel is just in the beginning stages and continuing the commitment is essential to bringing more air service to the airport.

Regina Emberton, CEO of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership, says Project Propel keeps millions of dollars in the regional economy annually. She says transportation infrastructure is the key building block to the region's economy, which makes the initiative so important. 

"A strong regional airport, an international airport like South Bend, is critical to both our short- and long-term success economically in this region," said Emberton. "At the end of the day, the decision to support Project Propel by so many influential leaders across our 47 cities and towns is lowering our cost to do business. It's increasing our productivity and it's enhancing the quality of life for every person who lives, works, and invests in the South Bend - Elkhart region."