CLEVELAND -- Cleveland businesses believe having a hub at Hopkins Airport is a great competitive advantage to help them connect with customers and recruit employees.
The Greater Cleveland Partnership has launched a campaign urging businesses to fly using the United hub whenever possible and encourage their employees to do the same.
Partnership President Joe Roman says, "You may not think flying is part of your job, but if it's critical to who employs you it's critical to you."
Lincoln Electric CEO John Stropki says the hub gives the company a competitive advantage keeping its 2,200 Northeast Ohio employees busy making welding equipment.
Lincoln has operations all over the world.
"Hopkins is by far Lincoln's airport of choice," he said.
It has 4,000 visitors a year.
"They don't come to shake your hand. They come to see if they want to buy your products...and if we're not convenient," he said, leaving the obvious thought unfinished.
Ernst and Young is also supporting the "Unite behind United's Hub" campaign.
The firm's 11 employees travel all over the country and world connecting with clients.
It prefers the non-stop flights and multiple destinations available through the hub. One-day trips could become two-day trips with no hub, according to Managing Partner Lee Thomas.
"Sure , I worry about it....I talk to my friends in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (cities that lost hubs) and I know it had an impact on their market when hubs pulled out he said.
A study done for the Partnership found that the losing the hub would cut daily flights in half.
Now United has nonstop flights to 70 cities and 250 flights a day.
Without the hub, it would be less than 35 destinations and 125 daily flights.
There is a cost for the hub's benefits.
Cleveland Hopkins has the 10th most expensive fares out of the hundred biggest U.S. airports.
Akron Canton's has the 14th least expensive fares.
Fares are determined by airlines, not airports.
Akron Canton Airport spokeswoman Kristie VanAuken said, "There's a time for airports to cooperate and a time for them to compete. .. We give customers discounted fares and an important choice."
Carina Diamond's Brecksville financial consultant who supports the Partnership's goal, but said flying out of Akron Canton is her most practical alternative when flights are hundreds of dollars cheaper.
United has made no new threats or warnings about moving the hub.
Recently, United brass were briefed on the multiple development projects that will soon bring more visitors to Cleveland including the Horseshoe Casino and Medical Mart.
"They can see how those investments contribute to their bottomline....and why it actually makes sense for them to be here in Cleveland," Roman said.
The hub has an estimated $4 billion/yr. impact on Northeast Ohio's economy. United has about 2,000 workers here.
For those with long memories, United pulled a hub out of Cleveland in the late 1980's.
Roman said "It's a competitive world out there."
He wants to make sure businesses do their part to fly out of United's hub and keep it profitable.
The Partnership has done radio ads on this theme and is planning other advertising. For the first time, it's charging to attend it's annual meeting. The revenue will be used to spread the "Keep the Hub" message.
United's new ticketing operations here are headquartered next to the Partnership, seen as another postive sign.