EAGAN (AP) -- Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty came out of a meeting with the chief executive of Northwest Airlines on Tuesday to pledge a "partnership" with the airline and other large state employers.
"The message being, we want the future of this airline to be here in Minnesota," Pawlenty said.
Northwest CEO Richard Anderson said the Eagan-based airline has no plans to leave the state.
Pawlenty, who requested the meeting, said they discussed state tax and regulatory concerns only broadly. He stressed that the visit was meant as a symbolic message that his administration wants a business-friendly climate.
The two empathized with the other's challenges. Pawlenty expects to have to close a budget deficit of as much as $3 billion. Northwest has cut $1.1 billion in costs since early 2001 and expects more to come.
Both men said they want changes at the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Pawlenty said he will look to appoint "change agents" to the 15-member commission and plans to compare Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to others nationwide.
"I expect that airport to be competitive, he said. "I expect the MAC to change."
Northwest, the dominant carrier at the airport, supplies about 80 percent of MAC's airline revenue. On Oct. 31, Northwest and other airlines asked the commission to freeze its budget, currently around $160 million to $170 million, for next year.
Jeff Hamiel, the commission's executive director, said the commission is trying to meet that goal even with new costs associated with expansion of the airport's two terminals. When Pawlenty reviews the MAC budget, Hamiel said, "He'll find this airport is extremely well-run and one of the most cost-effective facilities around."
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