Tallahassee Chamber Conference: Cheaper airfare and a push for the 1 cent sales tax

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AMELIA ISLAND, FLA. (WTXL) -- City and county leaders are unveiling a new website, www.LeonPenny.org, in an effort to promote November's ballot iniative seeking to extend the current one cent sales tax.

The current penny sales tax is set to expire in 2019, but voters will be asked in November to extend it for another 20 years.

WTXL's Greg Angel spoke to a number of local leaders about the extension during the 2014 Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Community Conference held in Amelia Island.

Leon County Administrator Vince Long says since the sales tax was first approved by voters in 2000 it has raised more than $750 million.

With input from community members, the website LeonPenny.org says the bulk of that money has been spent on building and improving local roads.

Previous projects include upgrades to Mahan Drive, Franklin Boulevard and Cascades Park. Future projects that could benefit from a sales tax extension include the Interstate 10 / North Monroe Street interchange.

"It's one of the projects that was identified by the citizen committee as an important gateway in our community that has suffered from private disinvestment," said Leon County Administrator Vince Long. "It's so important. It's a front door to our community and again it's an opportunity to both address infrastructure on that corridor as well as to create a better sense of place."

An extension could also mean more changes for Tallahassee Regional Airport. Airport Director, Chris Curry, showed off a few sketches of the changes planned for the land side of the passenger terminal.

As we previously reported in May 2014, the changes include revamping the ticket counter area and upgrading the flooring.

"...we're adding terrazzo flooring and that will depict a lot of Tallahassee such as the Capitol and the academic institutions that are instrumental in the success of Tallahassee," Curry said.

Curry, and other city leaders like Commissioner Scott Maddox, have also been working to draw in new airlines to the area in an effort to find lower cost airfare for passengers. Most recently Curry and Maddox have held meetings with several airlines including JetBlue, Spirit, Allegiance and United.

Their challenge they say is that more than 20% of people who could fly out of Tallahassee Regional Airport are instead choosing to drive elsewhere to catch lower cost flights.

"People are driving to catch other flights, but they're driving to Jacksonville to take JetBlue," Commissioner Maddox said. "So, we're sitting down with JetBlue and saying 'listen, if you added some route that Delta doesn't current serve and other carriers don't serve, do it out of Tallahassee, our folks wouldn't drive to Jacksonville and we would put cheeks in your seats and hopefully be successful for JetBlue and offer an alternative for our travelers."

"The pitch is that there is more disposable income, there is a skilled workforce and there is capitol connect between capital cities and Tallahassee residents will pay a decent fare for good air service," Curry said.

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