Maybe it was the summer doldrums. Or perhaps central Minnesotans were preoccupied with winding their way around orange cones in highway construction zones.
Whatever the reason, the business community of this region didn't embrace the Heartland Gateways project as fast as some observers might have expected.
The deadline to collect air travel pledges was extended once and the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce recently announced it will lead the charge to obtain $1 million in travel budget pledges by Nov. 1 for a second air carrier to offer direct service from central Minnesota to Chicago. The goal would be for a second carrier that would offer service from Brainerd to the Windy City in 2005 and from St. Cloud to Chicago by 2004.
It would seem to be a no-lose situation for firms that do a lot of air travel. The pledge money is paid as travel is booked. The minimum amount they must spend is $1,000 in a 12-month period. Pledges that are used within a specific time frame can earn an 18 percent premium.
Heartland Gateways is a partnership that includes the cities of Brainerd and St. Cloud, the chambers representing those two cities, the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, the Initiative Foundation, the Partnership and the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
For business people tired of making that long trip to the Twin Cities to get a decent airline connection, the Heartland Gateways program provides a way to improve regional air service to our region while receiving a discount on tickets.
That sounds like an idea that's too good to be grounded.
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