Frank Williams, former chief executive of the Building Industry Association of Southern California Baldy View Chapter, will help the business alliance raise funds to market LA/Ontario International Airport.
The former executive worked in the building industry for 20 years and retired about three years ago. He also brings with him extensive contacts with government officials in both San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.
"Local control has always been something I have always supported, I have a passion for local control. I use Ontario airport and you can't get a direct flight out of Ontario to hardly any place," Williams said.
The alliance was formed late last year to advocate for new management of the struggling airport as well as developing a much-needed marketing plan, said Steve PonTell a founding member of the alliance.
Since then, interest in the alliance has continued to grow. The challenge with an all-volunteer organization it is difficult to follow up on certain requests without having someone there to monitor it, he said.
"By hiring somebody who is focused on trying to build the organization, we can begin to formalize relationships and start the next step in the evolution of the alliance," PonTell said.
With Williams, 70, on board, it will give the alliance an opportunity to increase its presence in the community. Another asset is Williams' organizational skills and the knowledge it takes to start up an organization, PonTell said. Williams is a former member of Southern California Association of Governments, founder of the American Civil Defense Association and served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1984.
PonTell said Williams has only been brought in for 60 days, adding that he would like to retain him for a longer term but that it is the only financial commitment he can make at this time.
The alliance has been meeting monthly with 40 to 50 people attending. Since the launch, the alliance already has about a dozen contributing members, enough to pay for Williams on an interim basis, PonTell said.
It is accepting donations from as little as $100 and upwards of $10,000 and higher. Those contributions, considered membership dues, will be the base of revenues for the nonprofit.
In its first year, they are looking to bring in at least $260,000 in membership dues and has already raised $50,000, Williams said.
Long-term plans call for the organization to raise $1 million in the first three years. In Ontario, there are more than 13,000 holders of business licenses. But the alliance will not just focus in Ontario rather throughout the region, with access to more than 50,000 business licenses.
The alliance will interact not only with the airlines, but the aviation and business community to promote use of ONT.
Founders hope the financial support and clout of the business community will apply pressure on Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and manages ONT and Los Angeles International Airport, to relinquish the asset to a regional authority.
ONT has seen an exodus of airlines and flight availability in the past four years which has resulted in 4.5 million passengers traveling through the facility, figures last seen in the 1980s when its original terminal was used.
"Since 2007, the airport has lost about 10,000 jobs," Williams said. "I see local control as a means to really develop the airport as an economic engine for the region."
For the next 60 days, Williams said his goal is to build a coalition - as well as develop a "unified voice" in the business community - to move toward local control. In his discussions with the business owners, Williams said he will ask them to give him examples of how the airport helps their business. He plans to use their feedback in the airport's business plan and marketing strategy.
"If the airport grows, their businesses grow," he said.
But Williams said he will make sure that the alliance's plans will not interfere with ongoing negotiations between Ontario and the city of Los Angeles to regain local control.
Not only will Williams meet with local businesses and encourage their involvement, he will also attend as many meetings involving the airport including the Ontario International Airport Authority, made up of multiple government agencies, and LAWA's governing body.
He has already started work on the alliance's website, which he expects to go up in the next week, and using social media to get out their message.
"It's part-time but I'm putting in the full time because I really believe in the cause. I look at it as a cause, one that can lead an economic turnaround of the Inland Empire," Williams said.
The group will meet on March 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the San Manuel Club at Citizens Business Bank Arena, 4000 E. Ontario Center Parkway in Ontario.