Kern County Airports Director Richard Strickland got a promise of $100,000 in help for Meadows Field from the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon.
They agreed in theory to match a $600,000 federal grant — if Strickland can land it — with $100,000 in county rainy day funds.
If Meadows Field can win the grant, Strickland would turn the $700,000 in local and federal money, and an estimated $80,000 chipped in from the Kern County business community, into a big carrot to dangle in front of an airline.
If the carrot is big enough, Strickland hopes an airline will agree to create a connection between Meadows Field and either Dallas-Fort Worth or the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
The Texas connection is one that comes and goes at Meadows Field as the economy shifts.
It’s a critical link, especially for Kern County’s oil and gas industry.
“There’s an obvious connection between the oil community here and what’s going on in Texas,” Strickland said.
Right now there are a lot of ifs in the plan.
Financial support from the board of supervisors, Strickland said, makes it easier to eliminate one of the big hurdles.
“Only about 10 airports get a grant,” he said.
But he thinks Meadows Field has a really good shot.
American Airlines has included a letter of support in the grant package, which will be sent off in the next 20 days.
And now the supervisors are on board.
Winning this grant and landing a connection to Texas may be a critical step for Kern County’s main commercial airport.
The county has invested heavily in the field, building a new $33 million terminal in 2006 and supporting repaving of the airport's runways.
The expected rebound of service at the airport never materialized and international flights to Guadalajara were eliminated not long after they began when the Great Recession hit in 2008.
Strickland told supervisors earlier this year that the airport hasn’t been able to break even and relies on the Kern County general fund to subsidize operations.
More investment by the county is critical, he said then, to turning Meadows Field into a thriving hub.
Currently Meadows Field only offers flights to Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver.
Supervisor David Couch on Tuesday lauded the effort to build a connection between Bakersfield and Texas.
He said bringing another airline connection would be a boon to people in the community, especially people in the oil industry.