Reno-Tahoe airport to seek help from legislature

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Reno-Tahoe International Airport executives will turn to the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature for help in strengthening two key pieces of the airport business.

Marily Mora, president and chief executive officer of the airport, said the facility will seek lawmakers’ approval for a statewide effort to market service at Nevada’s three commercial airports — Reno-Tahoe International, McCarran International Airport and Elko Regional Airport in eastern Nevada.

Mora said, too, the airport will make yet another effort — its third — to win legislative approval of a break on the sales tax paid by companies that purchase aircraft parts.

After the airport executive spoke to members of Northern Nevada Development Authority Wednesday, NNDA Executive Director Rob Hooper said the economic development group will continue to support efforts to improve air service to the region.

He said passenger flights as well as air-cargo service usually are near the top of the list of questions asked by executives who are scouting the region as a possible location for new facilities.

Abatement of sales taxes on aircraft parts, Mora said, is critical to the airport’s efforts to attract more high-paying jobs at aircraft-maintenance facilities at Reno-Tahoe International and the Reno Stead Airport at the north edge of the metropolitan area.

And the abatement is likely to become even more important for job-creation efforts, Mora said, as the airport seeks to woo companies involved in the development of drones to the Reno Stead Airport.

Nevada is the only state of its seven neighbors in the West that doesn’t provide a tax break on aircraft parts.

Mora said the state is losing business as a direct result. She said Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines flies its aircraft for routine maintenance in Arizona, which provides the tax break, and Dassault Falcon has been reluctant to expand its maintenance operations at Reno because of the additional costs of the tax.

Tina Iftiger, vice president of economic development for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, said the organization can show lawmakers the increase in economic activity spurred by the tax incentive would more than make up for the lost revenue.

The proposal to create a statewide marketing program, meanwhile, would be funded by a combination of state and local dollars, Mora said. She said airport executives want legislative approval of a test program that would have a well-defined ending date.

Air service from Reno has weakened substantially since 2005 — the number of destinations with direct service has fallen to 15 from 20, and the number of carriers serving the airport has declined to seven from 11 — and tourism officials as well as airport executives are working to reverse the trend.

“We’ve really got our work to do to get this back up,” Mora told NNDA members. “The loss of air service has greatly impacted our communities.”

While the tourism industry has been most closely involved with improvement of air service to the region, she said other businesses and local governments also have a stake.

They’ll be asked to provide funding and other help in a three-pronged effort:

• Continued marketing of northern Nevada as a destination for vacationers, helping to boost the number of air passengers to the region.

• Financial incentives to airlines that otherwise might devote their aircraft and crews to other routes.

• Risk-mitigation to ensure that airlines won’t suffer losses if they don’t meet their financial goals with service to Reno-Tahoe International.


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