Recently, three local organizations critical to the future of Central Illinois—Caterpillar, Inc.; Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance; and Decatur-based Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM)—decided to study the future of airline service in central Illinois.
The purpose is to improve air service to destinations important to their respective businesses, and to relieve the delays caused by routing most central Illinois commercial air travel through Chicago and St. Louis. An interesting sidelight of the study is the commonality of economic interests of communities in our region.
The advantage of five community airports, serving approximately 1.1 million people through Peoria, Bloomington, Champaign, Springfield and Decatur locations, is that each community has an airport.
The disadvantages of the current system include limited direct destinations, redundancy of tax-subsidized facilities, disparate fares, and limited competition among airlines. These are important issues that need to be addressed in a very comprehensive fashion.
Our business community should fully support Caterpillar’s leadership in addressing the need for more reliable airline service in central Illinois. Early critical remarks about Caterpillar’s role were short-sighted.
Caterpillar derives approximately one-half of its business from international operations. The reliability of airline service is critical to Caterpillar’s future. ADM and State Farm obviously have similar interests. If any of these companies were identifying a site for new headquarters or centralized functions today, the reliability of airline services would be among the top priorities in the selection process. Citizens in our respective communities should be aware that these Fortune 500 companies have concerns about the adequacy of air service in central Illinois, and we should be pleased the companies are looking for a solution here rather than somewhere else.
Whatever the outcome of this study, whether it recommends an allocation of destinations among the existing airports, a new Central Illinois Regional Airport, or some new ideas, the Peoria business community should support a knowledgeable resolution of these issue. IBI