Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/04/2012 11:53:38 AM PST
Updated: 11/04/2012 05:14:19 PM PST

ONTARIO – In a bid for local control of LA/Ontario International Airport, city officials have rallied the support of more than 100 cities and local organizations.

Now a nonprofit has formed with the mission to get a new ally in the fight: the business community.

The Ontario Airport Alliance is comprised of prominent community and business leaders who feel it is now up to this region to mobilize efforts for local control.

One of the main objectives for the alliance will be advocating for new management of the struggling airport as well as developing a much-needed marketing plan. And it hopes the financial support and clout of the business community will apply pressure on Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and manages ONT and Los Angeles International Airport, to relinquish the asset to a regional authority.

ONT has seen an exodus of airlines and flight availability in the past four years which has resulted in 4.5 million passengers traveling in and out the facility, figures last seen in the 1980s when the original terminal was used.

“We’ve gotten to the point that it’s beyond ridiculous,” said Steve PonTell a founding member of the alliance, who called the situation at the airport one of the three most pressing issues facing the Inland Empire.

Which is why the alliance will focus on “the very best way that can lead to increase (in flights) – which we believe is local control,” he said.

From ONT’s undeveloped and unkempt property west of the facility to it being one of the costliest airports in the region, LAWA has demonstrated it is not fit to manage the airport, PonTell said.

And with the financial support of the business sector, the alliance will launch their own marketing plan to improve the situation at ONT.

It also hopes to serve as a support entity to the newly formed Ontario International Airport Authority, which would manage the airport if transfer were to occur,

PonTell admits businesses in the Inland Empire have not had a presence in Ontario’s multiyear battle for the airport.

It’s that lack of involvement that made the alliance realize the business community did not have any leverage in the discussions, said Stephen Larson, a founding member of the alliance and a former U.S. District Court judge.

They already have have the backing of California Steel Industries which could help the alliance attract an untapped market of businesses and travelers from the San Gabriel Valley, he said.

“If we’re going to be here, we have to bring the economic resources here,” Larson said referring to traffic at ONT.

Larson admits the alliance won’t have all the solutions, but with some economic influence, they hope to make some progress.

“It’s in everybody’s best interest that passenger traffic continue to increase because this could be a multiyear battle,” he said.

And that sphere of influence will not just be limited to the business community. They also hope to leave a mark with the state and federal legislatures, PonTell said.

Taking a political position is something that Ontario or the airport authority do not have the liberty to do, but PonTell said if need be, they will.

PonTell said they will consider political action if the ongoing discussions between the airport authority and the city of Los Angeles stalls. PonTell said there is speculation that Los Angeles may take a “delay and conquer” strategy with the negotiations, waiting for a new mayor to come in who may change the city’s stance.

Their action may involve working with consultants, advisers or even helping draft legislation for transfer of ownership.

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