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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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RST is the 'key that unlocks Rochester'

RST is the 'key that unlocks Rochester'

Rochester International Airport is a vital resource for local businesses, both large and small. With direct service to Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis — and connections to destination across the world — RST is the “key that unlocks Rochester,” says entrepreneur Laura Elwood. Her company, Chamberlain Concierge & Lifestyle Management, is one of more than 90 area businesses that have signed the pledge to Fly Local.

“By supporting RST and the Fly local campaign,” adds Laura, “we are contributing to the sustainability of our community, the employees of RST, their families and the future generations of Rochester.”

To understand why businesses like Laura’s are making the commitment to Fly Local, we spoke to a few. Here is what they told us.

A convenient option

For Ahmed Makkawy, owner of Saharafox Creative Agency, the decision to Fly Local comes down to convenience. “I'm able to leave my garage and arrive to the airport in less than 10 minutes,” he says. “I'm able to easily find a parking space and not have to traverse skyways, tunnels or escalators to get to my gate.”

Before flying out of RST, Ahmed says he had a negative perception of smaller airports. But he says RST broke that mold — not only with a convenient location and competitive pricing — but also with the interactions he’s had with staff. “RST goes above and beyond to show they are so much more than a building or just another airport,” says Ahmed. “They consistently engage in-person and online to ensure all questions are answered, all needs are brought up to management, and that the very best experience is had when traveling through.”

The ease of access and quality service has benefited more than Ahmed’s business needs. He also chooses to Fly Local when traveling for pleasure. “I find myself checking airfare constantly,” he says, “to see if I can land a great deal to see friends, family, or take my family somewhere warm when the weather becomes less than ideal here.”

Investing in community

As a result of the community’s support for the airport, RST has seen a roughly 30 percent increase in passengers over the last year with United, Delta and American all either adding new service or increasing their capacity.

Kathleen Harrington, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, says that kind of continued growth is critical as Rochester becomes an international destination for medical patients and business travelers. “We have to use this resource to increase the amount of service that is available,” says Harrington. “The more we use it today, the more options we will have for tomorrow.”

The Chamber represents more than 1,500 members, making it an important conduit for getting the word out about the importance of flying local.

To that end, Harrington says her message to members is: Look first for that Rochester flight option. While there’s often a perception of higher price, the increase in service has actually brought down prices. “From our businesses, we want to drive utilization,” she says. “So, I think it’s up to the Chamber to always keep awareness of the importance of using our airport.”

The front door to Rochester

 Laura Elwood of Chamberlain

Laura Elwood of Chamberlain

With connection points all across the country, RST often serves as the front door for visitors traveling long distances to Rochester. And as Laura Elwood puts it, “providing a first-class airport” shows patients and visitors that “we truly care.”

“Rochester is known for it’s personal and hospitable nature,” says Laura, a Rochester native who grew up in the transportation industry. “Airports are the first thing you see when you leave a city and the first thing to welcome you home upon your return.”

For those who call Rochester home, she says, the airport also serves as a gateway to the rest of the world — providing an accessible option for those looking for discovery.

“Travel is the epitome of exponential learning no matter what the purpose,” says Laura. “Allow RST to be the [place],” she adds, “that sends you off on your journey and welcomes you home with arms wide open.”

Published in partnership with Rochester International Airport

Cover photo: Ahmed Makkawy of Saharafox Creative Agency

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