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Gem Air, LLC began its scheduled flights to and from Boise on June 12. According to Gem Air co-owner JoAnn Wolters much more needs to be done in terms of local and national awareness in order to reach sustainability but a good start has been made.

She told the Lemhi County Commissioners on July 14 that the four round trip flights per week have already facilitated the successful efforts by Steele Memorial Clinic to provide local urology service on a monthly basis due to the time saved by flying instead of driving from Boise to Salmon. Wolters said Salmon based business people have been the first to make use of the air service and that being able to book a flight on-line has become a popular feature.

She said people who live here and work in other parts of the country are beginning to use the service and that she has met many newcomers who have started to use the service to commute. The air service also opens a travel door for enthusiasts who want to take advantage of this areaís recreational opportunities without having to drive for days to get here.

As positive as the first month has been Wolters said there is still not enough revenue to sustain the business and thatís where a concentrated campaign of local and national promotion would make a difference. The company is working with the Idaho Department of Commerce and the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association on mass marketing approaches. There is also a plan to establish interline agreements so that customers can link the Salmon destination service with the larger cross-country airlines. Wolters said having the scheduled air commuter service between Salmon and Boise is making the area more attractive to new businesses.

She said an invitation has been extended to apply for this yearís Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP).

SCASDP is sponsored by the US Department of Transportation and is a highly competitive nationwide grant program which awards money to help small community air services to be created, promoted and/or expanded. The application must be submitted by a public entity. Lemhi County applied for the grant last year but did not make it into the recipient circle.

If the grant were to be awarded to the county the county would then partner with an air service willing and able to provide the services to the community.

Another requirement is that the county provide some financial support and be willing to administer the grant if it is awarded.

Last year Lemhi County agreed to budget $10,000 a year for an up to a three year period, as a match to the SCASDP grant. Wolters asked the commissionerís to consider making the same commitment for this yearís application. Wolters said if Gem Air is selected as the air service partner the grant would provide needed funding for marketing and give Gem Air a much stronger and more immediate start.

She told the commissioners she will put her request for grant support in official written form. The grant application is due to be submitted by the end of this month.

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