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Local Officials Using Federal Coronavirus Relief Money For Direct Flight Incentive Fund


Local leaders are not leaving it to chance when it comes to landing new nonstop flights from Tulsa International Airport.

As first reported by the Tulsa World, Tulsa County Commissioners have approved using up to $3 million  from a federal coronavirus relief allocation for an incentive fund. It will essentially work as a revenue guarantee — if there aren’t enough passengers flying a direct route, an airline can tap into the fund.

The American Rescue Plan allows for money to be spent helping industries affected by the pandemic, including travel and tourism. Tulsa County received nearly $127 million in the relief package.

"We haven't really been in a position in many, many years to have the potential funding for an economic development project like this, and the good thing about it, if these flights are successful, they won't be utilizing very many of the dollars," said Board of Tulsa County Commissioners Chair Stan Sallee. "So, it's only if they need it. So, it's a win-win for everyone."

The incentive fund is being managed by TCF Greater Tulsa, which wants to raise $15 million over three years for it in all in public and private dollars. 

Sallee said the county has asked the City of Tulsa to contribute. The city received nearly $88 million from the American Rescue Plan.

"And we're also talking to other potential partners beyond the City of Tulsa, with some of our tribal leaders, tribal nations, to see if they have interest in tourism, business travel. They have businesses all over the country in many cases, and obviously, with the casinos, tourism's a big deal for people coming into especially Tulsa," Sallee said.

A working group is expected to propose to city councilors using some of the city’s American Rescue Plan money for the incentive fund. 

American Airlines recently announced new direct flights from Tulsa to Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C. The Miami and D.C. flights were announced after Tulsa County approved up to $3 million for the incentive fund.

New York, Seattle and San Francisco are still among Tulsa’s target destinations for nonstop flights.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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