LSCP Perspectives: Marquette Sawyer Regional Airport: A Vital Asset 

Posted by on July 31, 2023

On July 19, the Michigan Aeronautics Commission (MAC) met at Marquette Sawyer Regional Airport for its regular meeting. While we always appreciate it when state boards and officials take the time to visit our area, having MAC at Marquette Sawyer was especially timely and an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the impact an asset like Sawyer can have on our community. It is also an important reminder that while commercial air service is a vital component of what the airport provides, its impact is felt in many more ways. 

One of the most impressive things about Marquette Sawyer is the economic impact the entire site provides. With miles of class-A roads, existing utilities, and easy access to air transportation, the land surrounding the passenger terminal is one of the most attractive sites in the entire Upper Peninsula for future industrial investment. While many communities have land set aside for such investment, none are as shovel-ready as Marquette Sawyer. 

Existing companies on the site such as Envoy Air, Superior Extrusion Inc, Argonics, Able Medical Devices, M.J. VanDamme Trucking, and many others provide 600+ jobs to the area. Envoy Air’s decision to locate at Marquette Sawyer makes it one of just two areas in the nation where flights for American Airline’s largest regional carrier are serviced. (SEI) recently invested in a major expansion of its business. Companies such as Potlatch-Deltic, a highly sophisticated processing plant, leverage our existing natural resources, bring in new investment, and create stable, well-paying jobs. 

Living in rural areas has many benefits, but many of us have friends, family, and business outside the region. A modern and full-service airport is essential to ensuring those connections remain strong in both directions. The recent rebranding of Marquette Sawyer more clearly identifies it as the regional airport for the Upper Peninsula, connecting us all to what matters. We will all benefit from continued recognition that Marquette Sawyer is conveniently located to serve a much larger market than Marquette County alone.  

Despite the unbalanced environment, it faces as the only airport in the region without an essential air service subsidy to guarantee flights, Marquette Sawyer accounted for more than 30% of all air passenger traffic in the upper peninsula in 2022. The second roundtrip MQT – ORD route returned in May of this year, and efforts are actively underway to pursue new carriers, routes, and a better customer experience. Combine our local efforts to address air service with a major increase of state dollars to the air development fund, and we are well-positioned to be proactive on this front and come out stronger than ever before. Robust, reliable, and customer-friendly regional air service is critical to a vibrant regional economy and we aren’t backing down. 

Another lesser-known benefit of Marquette Sawyer: a flying club. The journey to becoming a commercial airline pilot can take years and significant financial resources. But every commercial pilot begins by getting their private pilot license (PPL); that’s something we can get right there in Marquette County. While flying certainly isn’t for everyone, assets like this add to our quality of life and can help inspire locally grown pilots, doing our small part to alleviate the shortage. Case in point: I took my discovery flight in June and can’t wait to get back into the skies. 

There is much to be proud of about Marquette Sawyer, and while work remains to be done, we believe the airport’s best days remain ahead. We’re proud to partner with airport staff, county leadership, and countless other partners to continually enhance the impact and outcomes of this vital asset that connects us to what matters.