In the midst of an obviously troubled national economy, some good local economic news surfaced this week: Business was significantly up at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in January.
Overall boardings rose to about 22,500 passengers in January. That was an 8 percent increase from January a year ago.
Here is a breakdown of some of the figures:
* Boardings on Allegiant Air increased by more than 37 percent in January.
* The carrier that has the largest number of passengers at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport -- Atlantic Southeast Airlines -- saw a nearly 16 percent increase.
* And there was a more than 300 percent increase in air cargo.
Those numbers suggest heightened economic activity in our city as well as in the surrounding region, and that should be encouraging to us all.
In fact, an official with FedEx pointed out the role of the billion-dollar Volkswagen plant at Chattanooga's Enterprise South industrial park in FedEx's decision last October to begin flying bigger planes into and out of Chattanooga, and to lease airport hangar space here for the first time. The hangar space is letting FedEx double its capacity to bring freight to our area.
The huge new distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties for Internet retailer Amazon also are playing an important role in expanding airport business.
Rising passenger numbers are "a great sign of strength in the economy," said Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson. And the panel's vice chairman, Jim Hall, described the increase in cargo as "quite impressive."
Times are still tough around the country, but Chattanooga is showing real signs of flying high -- and not only at the airport.