Finance committee recommends market study

ALPENA – The Alpena County Finance Committee will recommend to the board of commissioners that the airport be allowed to spend $10,000 to have a true market study done. The study will explore the number of travelers choosing to fly out of a different airport and why, as well as provide possible solutions to solve any issues it may uncover.

Alpena County Regional Airport Manager Billi McRoberts addressed the committee and explained why the study is needed. The airport is currently in the final year of a two-year contract with SkyWest Airlines and although enplanement numbers have been near all-time highs, there has been a decline for the past three months. McRoberts said although there is some concern, SkyWest is not threatening to end its relationship with the county. She said there just needs to be some information gathered as to why there has been a decline in passengers and what can be done to correct it.

“The study will look at our actual market and why people are using other airports and it will show us where the leakage is,” McRoberts said. “It will also let the airport know why they are losing people’s business and adjust.”

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said the airport has come a long way over the last several years and if the study is needed to ensure it continues to grow, then he is all for it. He said since SkyWest has taken over as the air service provider he has heard nothing but good things about it.

“This study will help the airport and SkyWest tremendously,” VanWormer said. “We are three years into a five-year plan that includes building a new terminal, so the study will allow for us to make changes in our plan if need be. Remember if we get the center of excellence, this airport might be busier than it has ever been.”

McRoberts said Sixel Consulting Group, the same consultant that help to broker a deal with SkyWest and the county, will be conducting the study. She said the cost of the project typically would be about $15,000, but Sixel has given a discount because of the prior business.

McRobert said it is not known when the study will begin and no date for its completion.

In other business:

* the committee approved the annual service agreement with NetMotion Wireless for $1,843.

* the committee held off on action on a request for surcharge money by Northern Lights Arena-Community for some repairs and equipment replacement. The board of commissioners must approve all spending of the surcharge money by a two-thirds vote.

* the committee voted to recommend the full board adopt the 2014 budget. The county will begin 2014 with a budget deficit of $414,659.

* the board of commissioner’s meeting will be held on Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. The date was moved due to the Christmas holiday.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at