Group pushing for commercial air service at Salem Municipal Airport lands grant

A private plane on the runway at Salem Municipal Airport pictured last fall. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Update 6:30 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Tom Hoffert, CEO of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

A group of Salem business owners and residents trying to return commercial flights to Salem Municipal Airport have landed a state grant, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce announced Friday.

The grant, from the Oregon Department of Aviation’s Rural Oregon Airport Relief Program, is worth “up to $500,000,” the chamber said.

The chamber said Friday the grant will reportedly help recruit an airliner and eventually market the service. Some of the funds could also add to the “minimum revenue guarantee,” which is a pool of funds that airliners require to recoup early losses.

Since announcing plans to bring an airliner back to Salem, the group has maintained commercial air service would help current businesses, attract future businesses, and promote tourism in the region.

“Securing this ROAR grant funding improves the local tourism economy and adds value for companies locating here and attracting new jobs and businesses to the Salem area,” said T.J. Sullivan, board president of the chamber, in the press release Friday.

The last commercial airliner to operate at the airport was Delta Air Lines, which opened in 2007 and left 17 months later.

The Salem chamber will serve as the trustee of the grant. The chamber said in its release that it now plans to meet with airlines in late April while garnering private pledges for the minimum revenue guarantee.

Chamber CEO Tom Hoffert told Salem Reporter on Friday that meetings with airlines would begin a “courtship” that could take months or more than a year.

Last October, leaders of the effort told Salem Reporter they hoped to land $1 million for the minimum revenue guarantee. The chamber said Friday it so far has $500,000.

The chamber also said it plans to apply for federal dollars “in the coming months.” In November, Salem City Council agreed to help apply for a grant with the U.S. Department of Aviation.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.