This fall, Carroll County is expected to learn whether it will receive state money to begin commuter service at its regional airport, allowing business executives to skip the long drive from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The Maryland Aviation Administration plans to meet this month with county commissioners to discuss the possibility of establishing commuter service between BWI and Carroll County Regional Airport north of Westminster.
"We see this as a way to increase travel throughout the state," said Ashish Solanki, airport services officer for the state. "It would reduce travel time, allowing corporate executives to spend less time traveling and more time where they need to be. It would also bring more jobs and more revenue."
Last month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed a law that requires the state to help pay for service in a handful of regional airports. Maryland is the first state to offer such a subsidy.
"At this point, we're trying to determine what communities need this service," Solanki said. "After that, we will be drafting a proposal and meeting with the airlines to see which would be the best one to provide the service."
The Maryland Aviation Administration is also studying the feasibility of Hagerstown and Cumberland in Western Maryland and St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland, among others.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Cumberland Democrat, pushed the concept and said the money would be an important investment in economic development efforts in rural areas. He hopes the service will provide an incentive for companies to hold business conferences in outlying communities.
About $1 million has been set aside for the initiative in the 2001 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The funding could increase to $2 million in each of the following two years.
The commissioners consider the county's regional airport a key to economic development efforts. Using federal and state grants, the county has built a mile-long runway and a fuel storage system to attract small jet traffic from BWI.
In 1998, the commissioners entered into a contract with Hangar Corp. of America to build seven hangars for corporate jets. Four of the hangars have passed county inspection, but none has a paying tenant.
As home to one of the state's 34 small regional airports, Carroll could qualify for additional grants from the Maryland Aviation Administration.