Sawyer International Airport has major upgrades in the works

Marquette County, InvestUP, the Sawyer International Airport Advisory Committee, and the airport’s staff are working together to modernize the airport.
Marquette County, InvestUP, the Sawyer International Airport Advisory Committee, and the airport’s staff are working together to modernize the airport.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 7:16 PM EST
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K.I. SAWYER, Mich. (WLUC) - Sawyer International Airport is in line for some big upgrades.

For many in Marquette County, Sawyer International is the best available option for air travel. But, the airport is lagging behind in a few important ways.

“It’s a repurposed Air Force base, and so I don’t place blame on [Marquette County], that’s not the point of this, the point is it can be better,” InvestUP Chief Executive Officer Marty Fittante said.

Fittante and InvestUP are part of a coalition with Marquette County, the Sawyer International Airport Advisory Board, and the airport’s staff who are working to improve it.

One of their planned updates includes modernizing the entrance, which includes adding new lighting and signage in front of the airport by the end of 2022.

They also plan to modernize the terminal with an art display, add food concessions, and expand its size overall.

“We’re at capacity, which is a positive thing, [but] it was built over 20 years ago, and we’re exceeding capacity,” Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch said.

The groups plan to use Federal Aviation Administration funding to cover some terminal upgrades, which Erbisch says have already been budgeted and planned for. However, they still need around $6 million to begin.

“We’re working on building those funds right now so that the project can move forward,” Erbisch said.

They also want to change the name of the airport to give it a greater connection to Upper Michigan. They are even working on a potential shuttle service for travelers.

“It’s a challenge, as you know if you’ve flown into Sawyer, to get into Marquette and the surrounding community,” Fittante said.

Additionally, they have selected a contractor to tear down 13 unusable buildings near the airport starting this spring.

“We hope to have those properties torn down by summertime, or closer to fall at the latest,” Erbisch said.

The county plans to use $20 million in Federal CARES Act money to cover the roughly $3 million demolition costs. The groups say their biggest priority is adding more flights, which they hope to do as well.

“How do we work collaboratively to grow the number of commercial flights out of K.I. Sawyer and bring those options to life here?,” Erbisch said.

Fittante and Erbisch both agree that Sawyer International needs these upgrades to help Marquette County grow both socially and economically. They say the first step is getting Delta Airlines’ Minneapolis-St. Paul flight back on its schedule, then figuring out how to move forward with all the upgrades.

The groups all plan to meet with Delta on Friday, Jan. 28 to discuss why the airline pulled the MSP flight from Sawyer International and work to potentially reinstate it. They say they are committed to keeping Delta and American Airlines flights at the airport.

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