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Governor Ralph Northam announced this morning that Breeze Airways, a new U.S. based airline offering low-cost, nonstop service to mid-size markets, will invest $5.2 million to establish an operations center in Norfolk, creating 116 new jobs.

The company targets underserved and unserved cities without nonstop service and identified dozens of route opportunities from Norfolk International Airport. All employees will also remain local. Norfolk will be one of Breeze Airways’ first U.S locations and will be offering flights out of Richmond International Airport. The airline plans to start offering flights beginning this June.

“Norfolk is a Mid-Atlantic destination for inbound travel, tourism, and business travel. We are excited that Breeze has decided to establish an operations center and the City will gain new direct nonstop routes, bringing new jobs and increased tourism,” said City of Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander. “As the major airport serving southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina, Norfolk remains our region’s primary link to the world’s global transportation network.”

“Aviation has long been ingrained in the Hampton Roads economy, and the arrival of Breeze Airways is another sign of this region’s growing position as a commercial flight hub,” said Governor Northam. “The post-pandemic world will offer increasing opportunities for travel and tourism, and the addition of this new low-cost carrier at Norfolk International Airport will be a catalyst for economic growth, welcoming visitors to our Commonwealth with convenient, nonstop service to often overlooked markets. We are honored that Breeze Airways has selected Virginia as one of its first domestic locations and look forward to building a strong and successful partnership with the company.”

Governor Northam approved a $400,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund for the project to assist the City of Norfolk with the project. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Norfolk, Norfolk Airport Authority, Virginia Department of Aviation, Hampton Roads Alliance, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, VisitNorfolk, and Virginia Tourism Corporation to ensure the success of the project for the Commonwealth. The airline is also qualified to receive benefits from the Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit based on full-time jobs created.

The Norfolk Economic Development Authority and VisitNorfolk are working together to earmark $100,000 through in-kind marketing of the Norfolk region to Breeze’s targeted cities, Norfolk Economic Development Director Jared Chalk said.

The addition of flights from Norfolk will help in economic development efforts, Chalk said. Especially because the world transitions to remote work, the importance of access to talent and mid-sized cities increases. The airport, Hampton Roads Alliance, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, VisitNorfolk and Virginia Tourism Corp. all worked together to keep Breeze’s interest, he said. Chalk said Breeze’s service also markets the region to other airlines.

“I think this validates we’re an untapped market,” Chalk said. “I think the experience that their executive team has in airlines shows the opportunity in Norfolk and I think you’ll see more investment.”

Breeze Airways, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a start-up airline established by David Neeleman, who is a founder of multiple airlines, including JetBlue, Northam’s office said. Its targets consist of inbound travel, local leisure and business travel, and millennial travelers. Breeze Airways will operate typically in markets in which no other airlines presently compete.

“We’re trying to find these communities that have attractive locations people want to visit and that are not easy to get to,” Neeleman said. “We’re excited to be there and I think it’s going to be great for the economy and for people to visit.”

You can find more information about this announcement at flybreeze.com .