K.I. SAWYER, Mich. (WJMN) – Sawyer International Airport hosted a virtual community update Wednesday afternoon to share information on the latest changes, upcoming activities, and opportunities for marketing the airport, improving the terminal, and coordinating ground transportation.

One of the current changes to flyers was the pause on flights from Sawyer to Minneapolis. Airport Manager Duane DuRay addressed the issue saying it’s due to the pilot shortage and they hope to have that service back.

“There is a huge lack of pilots to fill the seats for the airlines,” said DuRay. “And one of the challenges with that is the airlines had to scale back a lot of their operations to some of the smaller regional markets so that they could ensure that they were providing the resources for the more robust markets.”

Challenges the airport faces were also discussed at this meeting. Transportation is one of those that want to improve on.

“If you haven’t planned ahead or you know people who have arrived at Sawyer and haven’t planned ahead, for ground transportation that can be difficult to get to Marquette from Sawyer and there’s a lot of reasons behind that,” said Sarah Lucas, CEO, Lake Superior Community Partnership. “We don’t have a lot of transportation service providers here in Marquette County. We do have Checker Cab and the Model Towne Inn has a shuttle service that they’ve been providing. We have had transit service through Marq-Tran. Marq-Tran, and I understand Landmark has a shuttle as well. The difficulty is that there isn’t a transportation provider stationed at the airport. So, if you haven’t planned ahead and you land at the airport, and don’t have a cab or shuttle lined up, it can be a long wait to get a ride into Marquette. And the reason that there isn’t providers stationed there at the airport is that there isn’t enough regular demand to make it profitable to have someone there all the time.”

The meeting came together due to a report by InvestUp with help from Lake Superior Community Partnership to find way there could be improvement by the whole community to move the airport forward.

 “I think some of the key things that we need to keep going is the community outreach, working with the LSCP and continue to work with InvestUP on these challenges that the airport faces,” said Scott Erbisch, Marquette County Administrator. “We found that bringing in InvestUP was a real critical thing for Marquette County. For many years, we work to try to have a better engagement with the broader business community and with InvestUP starting to initiate that, it has definitely connected us in a way that we feel is very important to building that strength behind what we’re trying to do. They’ve also been very engaged with the Minneapolis situation, which also brings a different perspective when we meet with those who are lined up. From the airport perspective, we’re going to continue to work through those recommendations through the airport. We already have a handful underway, which you heard today and that’s very important. We’re going to make sure that we get the airport advisory set up in the very near future and continue the highly recommended community engagement.”