Town Won't Chip into Newport News Air Service Development Fund

SUFFOLK, Va. -- When asked for money to help the Peninsula's regional airport, the first reaction from the chairman of the city's industrial development authority was to yell across the room.

"Hey, Brett!" Chairman Tim Copeland called out at Wednesday's authority meeting to a real estate broker from Colorado. "How hard was it to get to Suffolk?"

The man said it was easy.

And so died a letter request asking the Suffolk Industrial Development Authority to contribute $32,428 a year for four years - a total of $129,712 - to an "Air Service Development Fund."

The Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport Task Force has asked 10 localities, including Suffolk, to support the fund. The group hopes to raise just over $1 million in four years.

The goal is to use the money to negotiate with airlines for more non stop flights to the west, to cities like Cincinnati and Chicago, said Gordon L. Gentry Jr., a member of the Newport News Economic Development Authority.

No airport representatives were at Wednesday's meeting.

Suffolk economic development officials said air travel from Suffolk has not been a problem and that most residents use Norfolk International Airport, not Newport News/Williamsburg.

"Nice request, but I say no," said Cynthia Ferguson, authority board member.

Newport News, Poquoson and York County have agreed to contribute to the fund, Gentry said. He's still waiting to hear from the others: Hampton, Williamsburg, and the counties of James City, Gloucester, Mathews and Isle of Wight .

"Newport News can't do this by itself," Gentry said.

The Newport News/Williamsburg airport is 40 miles from downtown Suffolk. Norfolk International Airport is 30 miles away.

Suffolk's chairman Copeland said, "As far as air travel, we associate ourselves with Norfolk."

* Reach Aaron Applegate at (757) 222-5555 or aaron.applegate@

A Peninsula task force is asking 10 localities to support a $1 million fund that would help bring nonstop flights to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.

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