Laramie is a leading example for air service throughout the state, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray told the Laramie City Council and Albany County Commission on Tuesday during a joint meeting.
“Laramie is in many ways a very good model of what we could be doing in other communities,” Murray said. “I can tell you that people come to Laramie to catch your SkyWest (Airlines) because it’s so reliable. That consistency is such that it doesn’t exist elsewhere throughout the state, including the capital city.”
Aviation brought the Murray family to Wyoming after World War I, he said.
“My granddad and his brother, James, were pilots in WWI,” Murray said. “This was a very, very early, dangerous and risky business. Afterwards, the U.S. government began the U.S. Airmail service, and they signed on as pilots.”
Working for the airmail service, the Murrays moved to Wyoming and while flying across the state, he said his grandfather and uncle earned the nickname “cowboys of the air.”
His uncle would later be inducted into the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame, Murray said.
Because of his familial ties to Wyoming aviation, Murray said he is a fervent supporter of aeronautics throughout the state and proud to see Laramie prioritizing providing quality air service.
“When air service became privatized, it changed the game for business,” Murray said. “It’s as important as other critical infrastructure such as health care providers and roads.”
Commissioner Heber Richardson said air service was vital to diversifying Albany County’s economy.
“I think the airport here is super important,” Richardson said. “I think there is a convergence that we policy makers need to pay attention here. People can’t do good business without good air service.”
Laramie Regional Airport Manager Jack Skinner said revenue-generating passenger boardings have doubled in the five years SkyWest Airlines has provided air service to Laramie.
“(The air service’s) economic impact is in excess of $36 million a year,” Skinner said.
“If we put on 10,000 revenue boardings a year, we are entitled to $1 million in (Federal Aviation Administration) funding. Before SkyWest moved in here, we weren’t getting that.”
As municipalities review their budgets and label projects as priorities for development in the near future, local governments should consider prioritizing air service among the areas needing the most attention, Murray said.
“Wyoming’s leaders need to understand the importance of reliable airline service as an infrastructure,” he said. “We are at a point in this state where we can go forward boldly in taking our airline industry and service to that level which will be good for Wyoming.”