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Central Illinois Regional Airport passenger numbers climb: strength of economy credited
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Central Illinois Regional Airport passenger numbers climb: strength of economy credited

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BLOOMINGTON — The Central Illinois economy climbed in 2019, according to data shared with the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority on Tuesday evening.

Just hours after Allegiant announced new service from the Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) in Bloomington to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport in Florida, the airport authority commissioners heard during their meeting at the airport that the total number of passengers at CIRA last year was 421,519.

That's an increase of 57,037 people or 15.6 percent more than 2018, Fran Strebing, deputy director of marketing, told the commissioners.

That was on top of a 9.8 percent increase during 2018, Executive Director Carl Olson told The Pantagraph after the meeting.

He said the 2019 increase was equally divided among business and leisure travelers.

"It's a strong indication of the vibrancy of the market," Olson said. "Both business and leisure were hitting on all eight cylinders."

"It shows business travel is strong in our community," Olson said. "Business travel has regained its strength."

On the leisure side, two low-fare carriers with popular destinations helped to fuel the increase, he said.

The climb continued into January, when passenger numbers increased by 8.8 percent, Strebing said.

"We're getting off to a nice start," Olson said.

In other business, commissioners approved abating taxes to collect $799,684 less from taxpayers this year. Olson said the abatement was possible largely because of a debt restructuring.

"This is an opportunity to save the taxpayers some money," Olson said. How much the owner of a $165,000 house will save on their tax bill was not immediately available Tuesday night.

"By 2027, it's likely we will be debt free," Olson said. "It shows the airport authority is a good and strong custodian of public funds."

Later during the meeting, commissioners approved a low bid of $438,123 from E.L. Pruitt Mechanical Contracting Services of Springfield for a new air conditioning system for the airport terminal building. Olson said the system would be installed by summer.

Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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