SOUTH BEND — Project Propel was rolled out nearly a year ago to boost business travel through South Bend International Airport.

On Thursday, those behind the initiative celebrated some favorable data at a news conference inside the Renaissance District’s Studebaker 113 building.

“Across the country the growth of people flying in and out of airports this year was about 3 to 4 percent,” said Chris Murphy, chairman and CEO of 1st Source Bank. “I’m pleased to report to you today that South Bend International Airport experienced a 20 percent increase in passenger traffic last year.”

According to Murphy — who spearheaded the effort to encourage local business to commit to flying out of South Bend International more often — that increase represents 339 more passengers flying in and out of the airport each day.

The Project Propel commitment was signed by more than 40 businesses that pledged to book South Bend-based flights when then cost was within $300 of flights into and out of Chicago. That figure was based on additional expenses of gas, parking and mileage for driving to a Chicago airport for a flight.

The idea behind the pledge is to increase local passengers, thereby making the South Bend International Airport a more attractive place for airlines to add more direct flights and recapturing some of the ticket sales in the local economy.

Similar pledges saw success in Grand Rapids, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Rochester, Minn. Here, companies and organizations ranging from 1st Source Bank to Beacon Health System to the University of Notre Dame have signed on to commit to fly locally.

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