Elkhart, Ind. (March 28, 2018) – During a press conference Wednesday at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, major supporters of the regional infrastructure project designed to swiftly enhance the economies of 47 cities and towns in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan, were announced. The announcement signals an end to the project’s quiet phase, and the beginning of the public phase.
Early supporters of the initiative called Project Propel, which promises to expand direct flights to and from this region out of the South Bend International Airport (SBN), were shared with the media.
“This is about protecting the economic assets we already enjoy in our region and eliminating transportation bottlenecks that slow or impede our growth,” said Lou Pierce, who is consulting on the project. “Dozens of companies and organizations from across the region already support Project Propel as a swift and simple way to boost our regional economy and improve our competitive posture.”
Levon Johnson, President and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, began the press conference by pointing out that leaders from Berrien County, Michigan, and Marshall and St. Joseph counties in Indiana were in the room to show their mutual support. “Project Propel is about building infrastructure for all of us—vital infrastructure that will keep us competitive with other regions across the country and around the world.”
The success of Project Propel is driven by organizations adopting voluntary policies that encourage business travelers to consider SBN as a first choice for air travel. Currently, SBN captures 40 percent of the business travel emanating from our region. An additional 60 percent leaks out to other airports like O’Hare and Midway in Chicago.
“There’s an illusion that you save money by going to O’Hare or Midway,” Pierce said. “We’ve put an online calculator on the Project Propel website that considers all the costs of traveling out of Chicago, including tolls, mileage, parking and lost productivity. Even with a ticket price difference of $300, you’re usually saving money as a business traveler by going through SBN.”
“By re-directing 10-20 percent of that leaking business travel back to our own airport, the national carriers will invest in new direct routes, higher frequency of service and larger aircraft for our region,” said Mike Daigle, Executive Director of SBN. “The implications for getting business travelers in and out of our 47 cities and towns more efficiently are major.”
When the Grand Rapids region promoted their own version of Project Propel, the economic impact on their region was $100 million in the first year alone. That’s precisely what our region should expect.
“We have businesses in our region that export products and import people and money,” said Chris Murphy, Chairman and CEO of 1st Source Bank and advocate for Project Propel. “Those businesses need a vibrant airport. And it doesn’t matter where it’s located in our region. There just needs to be a strong airport that connects us with the world.”
“There isn’t a thriving region in the world that doesn’t have a great airport,” added Amish Shah, CEO of Kem Krest in Elkhart. “Project Propel just makes sense.”
The list of companies and organizations who are promoting the merits of Project Propel and have signed on during the quiet phase of the project include:
1st Source Bank
Beacon Health System
Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce
Elkhart Convention and Visitors Bureau
Elkhart County Economic Development Corporation
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce
Hoosier Racing Tire
Inova Federal Credit Union
Marshall County Economic Development Corporation
Moody on the Market (Pat Moody)
Saint Joseph Health System
South Bend–Elkhart Regional Partnership
South Bend Medical Foundation
South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce
Teacher’s Credit Union
The Community Foundation of Elkhart County
University of Notre Dame
Visit South Bend Mishawaka
“One of the key pillars of our regional economic plan is infrastructure,” said Regina Emberton, President and CEO of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership. “We’ve done a great job with our digital infrastructure, but we cannot ignore the vital role that our air transportation system plays. Project Propel addresses that role in a swift and powerful way.”
“And we can’t rely on somebody else to make our airport grow,” added Murphy. “We’ve got to do it ourselves.”
In January 2018, SBN announced it will begin direct flights to and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) on American Airlines.