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ADVANCE SALES REMAIN WEAK FOR KIWI FLIGHTS

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency may begin its process of taking action on a loan to Kiwi International Air Lines within a week, but advance ticket sales for the proposed flights from Niagara Falls International Airport remain weak.

IDA Executive Director John R. Simon said Wednesday that Kiwi has supplied the agency with almost all the financial information it had requested. He said the rest should be delivered by the middle of next week.

"We're still waiting for certified copies of net worths of (potential loan) guarantors," Simon said.

The County Legislature, when it gave initial approval to a $550,000 loan to assist Kiwi in starting up local service, required that the loan be personally guaranteed by someone involved with Kiwi management.

Once full financial data arrives, Simon said the IDA's loan and project review committees will take up the Kiwi request, probably in special meetings. After approval from the full IDA board of directors, the Legislature will have the final say.

However, the Legislature had also specified $300,000 worth of advance tickets had to be sold for flights connecting Niagara Falls with Newark, N.J., and Chicago, before it would give final approval to the Kiwi loan.

Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce President Charles P. Steiner said Wednesday that little change is apparent in efforts to sell Kiwi tickets to local businesses.

Steiner said about 25 written commitments had been received, and only a few firms have actually handed over money for a book of 10 one-way tickets, priced at $1,010. He acknowledged that is "certainly nowhere near the $300,000 goal."

He and Simon said they hoped the Legislature would drop the firm $300,000 requirement if they can show a significant amount of sales interest.

Key lawmakers disagreed on whether that would happen. Legislator Robert R. Villani, D-Town of Niagara, a member of the IDA board and chairman of the Legislature's Commerce, Transportation, and Tourism Committee, said it could be done.

"I think we need to convince them the money will be personally guaranteed," Villani said.

However, Legislator Richard C. Corica, D-Lockport, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the chances of dropping the $300,000 requirements are "none."

Corica said, "Mr. Murphy (Jerry Murphy, Kiwi's president and chief executive officer) came in and said it has to be a three-way partnership -- the county, the airline, and the business community. So far, we have only two pieces of that puzzle."

At Corica's insistence, the Legislature refused to use money from the county surplus for a Kiwi loan. Instead, it mandated that the IDA use money from a state mortgage on its office building to pay off $950,000 it owes the county on a 1992 loan before the county would lend $550,000 of that back to the IDA to pass on to Kiwi.

That mortgage, from the state Job Development Authority, has been hanging fire for months, but Simon said Wednesday that only one more bureaucrat's approval is needed to release the cash. That nod must come from the federal Economic Development Administration, which played a role in the original financing of the office building.

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