Ontario International Airport

A man walks through an empty Terminal 2 at ONT/LA International Airport. (File)

By Liset Marquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 08/08/15 – 7:10 PM PDT |

ONTARIO >> Three years ago, the formation of a local consortium to run L.A./Ontario International Airport seemed pretty pretentious, especially considering the airport’s owners were staunchly opposed to parting with it.

In the intervening years, efforts by Inland Empire officials to wrest the airport away from Los Angeles World Airports, which has run ONT for nearly half a century, often seemed futile.

But last week, suddenly, the deal was done as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ontario Mayor Pro Tem Alan Wapner announced a $250 million deal to return the airport to local control.

And now comes a real challenge.

Battered by the recession, traffic at ONT declined for six straight years, hitting a 20-year low before improving slightly over the past year. Officials with the Ontario Airport Authority have claimed that traffic declines cost the region’s economy nearly $3 billion.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Ontario Councilman Jim Bowman, a founding member of the Ontario Airport Authority. “We are now operating a major corporation.”

When the authority was first formed in August 2012, there wasn’t much for it to do other than monitor air traffic reports and create clamor over continuing declines.

Now the authority will be responsible for rapidly reversing those declines, revitalizing the airport and restoring what local officials have long said was the “economic engine of the Inland Empire.”

Authority leaders say the work has already begun as the authority — even with its limited role before last week’s deal — was preparing for the day when it would finally win the airport back, and those preparations now will pay off.

“We knew we needed to be in the position as a receiver, and to be legitimate in the eyes of the FAA, so we prepared and had a structure in place to take over,” Bowman said.

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