Rainmakers chief fingers Indy's greatest need

April 14, 2010
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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?
 

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  • Indy Flights
    With all due respect to Mr. Scelzo, IND has pretty good air service and itis very possible to fly in/out sameday when traveling to major markets in the East/Midwest/Southwest.

    Flying to smaller markets can also be accomplished same day via connections at ORD/ATL/DFW (among others).

    There is no airline in their right mind that would establish a new hub anywhere. In fact, hubs will continue to vanish. (see CVG)

    Interesting that a company that is a pyramid builder with most of its clients in Indy would need better air service (other than to get out of town quick when the pyramid collapses)
  • No problems here
    I have been flying regularly out of IND for the last 15 years and have never had an issue with making same-day round-trips within the region.

    And as I hate wasting time on airplanes, I usually take red-eyes to/from the west coast. So I can often make those effectively 1-day trips as well.

    Further, I definitely appreciate the airport being smaller with fewer terminals, and thus not requiring a shuttle/tram to get from one end to the other. That in itself makes check-in and arrival a breeze (and a HUGE time-saver).

    I think the city has bigger problems that reducing its relative 'isolation' won't fix.
  • A combination?

    I'm guessing it can't be every day that it works/breaks.

    Bringing someone in, they don't have to leave the same day. After all, should visitors see the region 8-6pm? Certainly, some of them will see things which can't be appreciated un(less|til) when the sun checks out for the night.
  • Competition is a good thing
    We're better off that we never got a hub because it keeps prices down. For example, Cincinnati has a Delta hub and Delta dominates the city's airport without much competition. So while there are a lot of direct flights, the prices are much higher. I've heard the same is true in Pittsburgh and to an extent Charlotte.

    Our prices are very low comparatively, and a hub would drive up prices for departing and arriving flights.

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