GRAND RAPIDS — Allegiant Travel Co. is expanding its footprint at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport with the opening of a $42.8 million base.
The project, announced today in an event at the airport, is expected to create at least 66 permanent jobs.
“That means a lot of investment,” Hilarie Grey, director of corporate communications at Allegiant, said of the base. “It means equipping and expanding our operational capacity at the airport.”
Allegiant is hiring immediately for positions at the base. Grey said the company operates on a “fly out and back” system, allowing crews to start and finish work at their home base.
“Our team members, including our flight crews, come home at night and sleep in their own beds. Our team members are spending more time living and working in their base cities,” she said. “That means community impact as well as economic impact.”
Las Vegas-based Allegiant (Nasdaq: ALGT) also said it was adding two new nonstop routes to Nashville, Tenn. and Savannah, Ga. The direct flights from Grand Rapids will begin in June.
According to The Right Place Inc., Allegiant will add high-wage positions in Grand Rapids, including pilots, flight attendants and aircraft maintenance personnel to support Allegiant’s two aircraft.
The company expects a majority of the positions will pay more than double Michigan’s average wage.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. is supporting the expansion with a $200,000 Business Development Program performance-based grant.
With more than 3 million passengers last year, the airport is a “very important” part of economic development efforts in Grand Rapids, said The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs.
“The airport has been on an enormous growth trajectory,” she said. “This community is totally committed to having this airport grow, and we have made lots of investments. We will continue to make investments to improve this airport.”
Allegiant currently flies to seven nonstop destinations from Grand Rapids. With its new base, the airline will house two Airbus aircraft at Ford Airport, allowing the company the flexibility to serve additional routes in the future.
Brian Picardat, the airport’s interim president and CEO, said the additional routes bring to 29 the number of nonstop destinations the airport now serves. Other similarly sized airports provide about 17 direct routes typically, he added.