Knoxville is within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the US population. If the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley partnership has its way, Knoxville will soon become a lot more accessible by air.
The Competitive Airfare Partnership, a public-private coalition spearheaded by Innovation Valley, has raised $2.2 million in an effort to recruit a low-fare air carrier to Knoxville.
“Knoxville airfares are expensive,” says Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for the Knoxville Chamber. “This initiative was launched two years ago to raise $3 million to incentivize low-cost carriers to serve Knoxville. So far, 46 partners have come together to raise $2.2 million. We are making the business case to take to the airlines.”
The effort marks the first time a regional partnership approach has been taken to recruit low-fare carriers to McGhee Tyson Airport. Partners backing the plan include the City of Knoxville, Blount County, Knox County, Sevier County, Visit Knoxville and The Roane Alliance.
“We are working with the tourism sector and the business community. Both have a legitimate case to make this happen,” says Lawyer. “Knox County alone put in $400,000 toward this effort.”
Lawyer notes that the business case for attracting a low-cost carrier is solid:
Since adding low-fare carriers, both Greenville and Charleston have experienced significant passenger increases. Greenville’s annual passenger volume is up 550,000, while Charleston’s is up 500,000.
“It is time to make this happen,” Lawyer says.