As an undergraduate public administration major, I learned all about the ideas that "regionalizing" government," and "urban planning," would supposedly lead to better local government. It was not clear to me then, and is not clear now, that either regional/ authority or municipal operation of public facilities is necessarily superior to the other. Each state or local area needs to make its own decisions, based upon what works for them.
IMO, it's up to each of these areas to decide how to run their airports. I've been to the Oshkosh-Appleton-Green Bay corridor and wondered why they bother with three air-carrier sized airports. The patterns have shifted; in the '70s GRB
had air service and ATW
didn't; now it's GRB
, and Wittman Field is out in the cold.
If people in Brown County are happy with GRB
, people in Winnebago County are happy with OSH
, and folks in Outagamie County are happy with ATW
, that's up to them. From a purely operational-expense standpoint, it would probably make sense to consolidate all air and cargo service at ATW
isn't even 40 minutes from Green Bay in good traffic, and Oshkosh is probably about 30 minutes. And a bigger traffic base might have better chance of drawing more air service The region's population of around a half-million is in the ballpark for supporting an LCC. I don't have time to look up figures but can't imagine that the MLI or Bloomington/ Normal catchment areas, which support AirTran, are much bigger than the Fox River valley.
But Brown County just built new concourses at GRB
, and even ATW
's recently-expanded terminal would strain to take all of its passengers. There would be millions of dollars in cost, and the lost investment at GRB
, involved with an ATW
consolidation. I don't think you'd be able to sell closing the local airport to folks in Green Bay, esp. since their airport is still supporting mainline service. And AirTran could probably enter ATW
if they wanted to, whether anything was changed at the three airports or not.
I haven't looked into the finances of the three airports; if all are in the black, and have good prospects of staying in the black, it's not clear to me that people there would want to change. I suspect that if ATW
were on the NE side of Appleton--maybe 7-10 miles closer to Green Bay--it might be an easier sell. But it isn't, and GRB
is probably 12-15 minutes from downtown Green Bay.
, we set up a county airport authority and transferred direct control from the county to the authority, in order to issue bonds at most reasonable cost for the 1989-1992 expansion. It worked well for us. But it's up to folks in Wisconsin communities to decide which model works best for them.