IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP - Air Choice One was welcomed to the Ironwood area at Wednesday day-long festivities at the Gogebic-Iron County Airport.
The Chicago-based airlines has been operating out of the airport for nearly a month and CEO Shane Storz said he's pleased with the response and ticket sales.
"We're looking to a great future here," Storz said before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
He said Air Choice One is a "family business" and that is borne out in the fact that his sister, Darnea Wood, is the chief financial officer for the company.
"This airport has a huge impact on our communities, as we all know," Ironwood City Manager Scott Erickson said, after spinning a prize wheel and winning an Air Choice One T-shirt that he promptly wore.
Erickson also pointed out the recreational benefits ACO stands to bring to the area.
Storz said the main market will be Chicago area tourists who will fly to Ironwood to ski and enjoy the outdoors.
ACO marketing representative Michelle Hagan also attended the ceremony.
Hurley Chamber of Commerce Director Dorrene O'Donnell said the airport is important for growth of the area. "I see many business owners out here today," she said.
Ironwood Chamber of Commerce Director Sandy Harden stressed "getting people in and out" is important to area businesses.
Storz said his family has been involved in the airlines business for more than 35 years and he has stepped up efforts in the past decade to expand the business.
ACO also serves Burlington, Iowa; Decatur, Ill ., and Jonesboro, Ark ., and operates a hub at St. Louis International Airport, in addition to its Chicago O'Hare International Airport hub.
The company was granted a two-year Essential Air Service contract by the federal Department of Transportation to provide passenger service here.
In seeking the contract, Storz told the Gogebic-Iron Airport Board his company hoped to "drive new tourism north to Ironwood."
Ironwood had been without passenger service since February, when Great Lakes Airlines abruptly suspended operations in a bitter dissolution, citing a pilot shortage.
In addition to prize drawings, hundreds of people visited the airport Wednesday and ate Chicago-style pizza and hotdogs on a picture-perfect day weather-wise.
They watched as a nine-passenger Cessna took off just before the noon ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The airlines is offering introductory $49 fares to Chicago.