Kiwi International Air Lines president and chief executive officer Jerry Murphy will visit Niagara County in the first 10 days of January to discuss new terms for a county loan to the airline, Industrial Development Agency Executive Director John R. Simon said Tuesday.
If all goes well, "we're hoping they could be in the air (to and from Niagara Falls International Airport) by March," Simon said.
Murphy will suggest three possible meeting dates, Simon said, "and it'll be up to Gerry Meal to get the legislators together."
Legislator Gerald E. Meal, R-Royalton, is chairman-designate of the County Legislature, effective Thursday. Simon said Meal would select three legislators from each party to meet with Murphy and IDA staff members.
The main topic of discussion will be the guarantees or collateral to be demanded by the county for repayment of a $550,000 loan. Kiwi sought the loan to help pay costs connected with starting passenger airline service to Niagara Falls.
The Legislature approved the loan in August but required a personal guarantee of repayment from a Kiwi executive or investor. Simon said Murphy agreed at the time that Dr. Charles C. Edwards, the Baltimore physician who is Kiwi's chairman, would make the guarantee.
However, it turned out that Edwards had taken on too many other financial burdens in the process of bringing the airline out of Bankruptcy Court since last summer. Attention eventually shifted to Joseph Logan, president of Wasatch International, a company with a large investment in Kiwi.
Apparently reluctant to guarantee the loan directly, Logan offered to put up $1.1 million worth of stocks he personally owns as collateral equal to twice the value of the loan. However, IDA officials were disappointed with the caliber of the stocks offered, with Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, an IDA board member, saying they were "not blue-chip."
Any change away from a personal guarantee by a Kiwi executive would be subject to approval by the Legislature, since that was written specifically into its August resolution. Simon said the earliest that such a change could be approved, assuming that agreement is reached during the early January negotiating session, is the Jan. 20 meeting of the full Legislature.
If that does occur, Simon said, a special meeting of the IDA board would be called to convey the actual loan, and Kiwi could be flying to Niagara Falls by March.
Simon said the January meeting with Murphy will not touch on advance ticket sales or on the airline's request for in-kind marketing services. "They're not part of this discussion," Simon said.
Ticket sales to local companies have been virtually non-existent, but Kiwi spokesman Robert B. Kulat said the airline has been talking with tour operators about package deals involving Niagara Falls excursions. He declined further comment on any matters pertaining to Niagara Falls air service.
Simon said that "we don't know what discussions they may have had with tour operators. . . . We do know that local businesses are not enthusiastic about putting money in escrow (for tickets) without knowing schedules."
The Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce spearheaded an effort to sell books of 10 one-way fares from Niagara Falls to Newark, N.J., for $1,010 each.