The railroads couldn't keep Akron-Canton Airport from opening in 1946, said airport director Fred Krum, and high fuel prices won't keep it from continuing the record-setting growth that it has posted for the past five years.
Community leaders and public officials from Stark and Summit counties joined Krum to mark the airport's 60th anniversary and dedicate a new gate concourse.
Clair Dickinson, Summit County Council president, said cooperation between Summit and Stark counties was essential to the airport's creation, and called it one of the first examples of regionalism here.
He said the airport "is a great tool in our efforts to attract new business to the region."
Rep. Ralph Regula of Canton, dean of Ohio's congressional delegation, made passing reference to the infamous bridge to nowhere in Alaska when he called centrally located Ohio and its transportation system "the bridge to everywhere."
Air travel is part of that bridge, Regula said, and "an airport spells growth."
Gov. Bob Taft said the airport's convenience helps to attract new investment, to retain existing businesses, and Akron-Canton alone employs 1,000 either directly or through the air carriers and related businesses at the airport.
Earlier this year, when AirTran inaugurated new flights to Florida, Krum said rising fuel prices would diminish the likelihood of adding other flights.
Krum said Friday that he does not anticipate new air carriers joining the six already serving Akron-Canton. If fuel prices drop, though, airlines may increase service.
His wish list includes nonstop service to Washington, D.C., Dallas and Phoenix.
When the airport opened, its first commercial flight was an American Airlines DC-3 from Buffalo.
Krum said local officials and civic leaders had to overcome the resistance of the railroad lobby and taxpayer lawsuits to get the airport off the ground and that Buffalo flight on the ground.
Kristie VanAuken, the airport's marketing director, said Friday Akron-Canton is nearing 1.5 million passengers for the year, marking the airport's fifth straight year of growth.
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