April 14, 2010
Norm Heikens, IBJ ‘s Focus Editor
Rainmakers, the for-profit networking organization, is booming. It has 1,700 members, mostly in its headquarters city of Indianapolis, and is on a pace toward $800,000 in sales this year from $550,000 last year.
So, if you were to ask founder and CEO Tony Scelzo the open-ended question of what Indianapolis needs most, you might expect him to finger financing, better-trained workers or some other common lament of his small-business members.
But that’s not what he says. What does Indianapolis need more than anything else? Direct flights.
“You can’t get into Indianapolis and out of Indianapolis on the same day,” Scelzo says. “If you’re going to market your city nationwide, you have to be accessible to the rest of the nation.”
Scelzo is by no means first to complain about Indianapolis’ relative isolation. Civic and business leaders have made the case for more direct flights—ideally an airline hub—for a number of years.
Scarce flights hit Scelzo’s customers more than one might think. As the companies grow, they’re soon charging around the country serving customers through a quilt of flights, and too often the hassle of hitting connections becomes greater than the benefits of making a quick run to check on a client or drum up new business. So it doesn’t get done.
But Indianapolis might need better connecting flights for an even more important reason. Scelzo thinks the city’s growing convention business would explode if people could get here easier.
Perhaps Indianapolis has more hope than some places of getting a real hub. Plucky Republic Airways is diversifying into its own consumer identity after a long run of flying on behalf of other airlines. Yesterday, locally based Republic chose Frontier Airlines over Midwest Airlines as the brand that would survive after its acquisitions of the Denver and Milwaukee carriers.
What do you think? Are direct flights as much of a problem as Scelzo says? And what are your thoughts about Republic’s bold moves?
Check out this article in the IBJ http://bit.ly/9s20iZ
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