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Washington, D.C. -- Wyoming's Congressional Delegation announced a Department of Transportation (DOT) grant to assist the air service needs in Casper and Gillette.

The grant is part of the "Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program for the 21st Century," a plan implemented by the Department of Transportation to provide $20 million in grant funds to 40 communities across the nation to help them address their local air service problems.

Casper and Gillette will use the funds to secure air service to Billings, Montana, with Big Sky Airlines. The two cities will use the $500,000 in federal grant money along with $700,000 in local funds for the project.

"With the establishment of this new route, people from outside Wyoming will have another avenue to visit and do business in the state," the delegation said. "We must continue to promote the frequency of flights in and out of Wyoming to increase our economic stability." Dan Mann, Airport Manager of the Natrona County International Airport, said, "We're excited about the opportunity to have a third carrier in our market. We believe this will give us price competition for the leisure traveler and greater options for the business traveler."

Jay Lundell, Airport Manager for Campbell County Airport, said, "We're elated about our local air travelers having more options available to them through other hubs and destinations. We're positive about the collaborative effort between Big Sky Airlines and the cities of Casper and Gillette, to insure that this program will a success. I would like to thank the delegation for their efforts in DC."

In considering the grant proposals, the DOT gave priority to those communities that have higher airfares compared to other communities; contribute financially to the project from sources other than airport revenues; have established or will establish a public/private partnership to improve their air service; and submitted proposals that will benefit a broad segment of the public. Overall, 179 proposals from 47 states were submitted to vie for funds. These requests totaled over $142.5 million.

In recent meetings with officials from the DOT, the delegation stressed the need to improve Wyoming's air service as a way to keep the state open to outside economic opportunities.

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