Supporters of a new name for Outagamie County Regional Airport say it’s time to set aside hometown pride and think from the viewpoint of potential customers.
“I live here and know this is Outagamie County,” Supervisor Tanya Rabec said. “I consider this the Fox Cities. A business traveler from Hong Kong doesn’t.”
A committee organized last year to study the feasibility of a name change completed its review and will ask the Outagamie County Board to consider a switch to Appleton Airport.
Leaders say naming is a matter that goes beyond mere words.
Rabec, who led the committee, said the current name of the Greenville-based airport doesn’t resonate with those outside the region. Business travelers make up 80 percent of the airport’s commercial traffic.
The airport, which operates without tax funding, relies on commercial flights for more than half of its revenue.
“This used to be a community-driven airport, but today it has to respond to a world economy,” Rabec said.
What’s in a name?
The name of airport has been debated for decades.
The county board in 1983 defeated a proposal to change the name to Fox Cities Metro Airport. Before that vote, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest that solicited potential names from the community.
Three additional name-change efforts failed between 2003 and 2011.
Toby Paltzer, a supervisor and former county executive who pushed the three most recent attempts, said Appleton Airport makes the most sense. Customers think of airports in terms of their destinations. Arrival and departure boards don’t mention Outagamie County. They say Appleton.
“I don’t fly out of Outagamie County,” Paltzer said. “I fly out of Appleton. I fly out of Atlanta or out of Detroit.”
Before settling on a name recommendation, the committee debated whether a change made sense and reviewed past resistance to the idea.
Pride in ownership played a significant factor in past defeats. County supervisors couldn’t support the idea of a county-wide venture named solely for its biggest city. Board members also weighed the cost of a change against the potential returns.