At last week’s Great Falls city commission meeting we voted to approve a $150,000 funding request, using federal ARPA funds, for the Great Falls International Airport.
The money will be used as part of a matching fund package for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant (SCASD) to help lower air fares at Great Falls’ airport.
I was happy to vote in favor of the request. But in reading the agenda report I was troubled, but not surprised, by the facts presented by John Faulkner, our airport Director:
“Twenty years ago, Cascade County was the third largest county in Montana. Since that time, we have grown only 1% in population.
Meanwhile, the next slowest growing large county grew at 26 times that rate! Gallatin County grew an amazing 72 times our growth rate.
Based on these growth rates, Helena is likely to outgrow Great Falls over the next ten years.
The picture is not much better economically.
Once Great Falls was in the middle of the pack of household income, Cascade County now has the lowest and slowest growing median household income of the larger counties.
The airlines cannot rely on growth in Great Falls. In fact, they can see the market is stagnant which makes them reluctant to invest in more flights, larger airplanes or new routes.”
Unfortunately, we’ve been hearing this same sad song for far too long.
Approving the funds for the matching SCASD grant is another small step in the right direction, but we need a lot more action.
What’s it going to take to finally change the tune? I’m all ears.