Excitement for a new flight option in Central Oregon is taking off.
It was announced Wednesday that American Airlines is interested in establishing non-stop flights between Redmond and Los Angeles -- if local interest, in the form of pre-sold tickets and a separate revenue guarantee are arranged by the end of next week.
"We're looking at this as an opening for commerce and business and the ability to attract interest and companies up here as well," Economic Development for Central Oregon Executive Director Roger Lee said Thursday.
Horizon Air offered this service until 2010, and Lee said they've been trying to replace it ever since.
EDCO got news of the possibility last week -- and has only eight days left to raise $350,000 in travel vouchers to show the community's commitment to the new flight. Lee said so far, the business community is responding well.
Lee couldn't give the specifics on how much has been raised so far, but said they're off to a great start.
"When there's a need, a unified interest in seeing something happen, the community steps up and make something happen," he said.
Central Oregon is not competing with other regions to get the new air service, and Lee said getting it here is crucial.
"We have more people in a few counties down in Southern California than we do in the whole state of Oregon, and that really represents trade routes for our area," Lee said.
The new service could change tourism as well.
Alana Hughson, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association said many Californians have to plan extended vacations to come to Central Oregon. But with this direct flight, she said, the High Desert will be a new destination for weekend getaways.
"The timing is ideal, both from a business development perspective and a tourism perspective, and we are very excited for the opportunity to put this together," Hughson said.
The city of Bend is also getting involved. The Bend Economic Development Advisory Board is holding a meeting Friday afternoon, where it will discuss whether to pitch into funding the flight.
In addition to the "travel bank," Lee said revenue guarantees of $100,000 must be met -- and EDCO plans on presenting to several city councils meetings around the region to ask for that money.
During a Bend City Council discussion late Wednesday night, councilors seemed willing to buy some of the tickets, but at least two -- Mayor Jim Clinton and colleague Sally Russell -- expressed misgivings about chipping in other city funds when there are so many pressing needs facing the city.
Carolyn Eagan, the city's business advocate, said the advisory board had been considering asking the city to put in $50,000 from its "opportunity fund," citing the economic boost and potential new business the flights would lure.
EDCO is also holding informational meetings beginning on Friday to explain the travel bank and other aspects of the proposal.
The schedule is:
March 7th: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at EDCO Bend office
March 11th: 9a.m. 446 SW 7th St., Redmond
11a.m. COCC/Open Campus Boardroom, Prineville.
1p.m. Madras Airport
3:30p.m. Sisters Chamber of Commerce
March 12th: 1p.m. EDCO Bend office
March 13th 9a.m. and 1p.m. EDCO Bend Office
Some answers to questions about the proposal can be read here: http://www.visitcentraloregon.com/images/enews/frequently-asked-questions-atb-3.pdf