THE SHOALS, Ala. — In the wake of a new federal proposal from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 144 cities across the nation would lose their metropolitan statistical area designations, including the Shoals.
Area leaders have voiced their concerns about the change as it could cause The Shoals to lose important federal funding.
Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Caitlin Holland and other area leaders, including the mayors of the Quad Cities, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with elected officials who represent the Shoals to see what could be done.
“I think all of us understand what Zoom fatigue feels like,” Holland said. “We’ve all been on plenty of phone calls and Zoom calls over the past year and they’ve been necessary and we’re thankful that they were an option for us, but because we had the opportunity to be in D.C. to be face to face with our legislators in their offices, we felt like that was the best option for our community.”
Holland said the group of economic and city leaders urged the congressional delegation to support maintaining the current definition of an MSA, which is crucial for the federal funding of many programs, including the area’s Essential Air Service.
“Essential Air Service is federal funding that goes to local airports, and The Shoals airport is the only airport in Alabama that uses EAS funds,” Shoals Chamber Public Policy and Government Relations Director Samuel Mashburn said. “It was just more so bring that to the conversation and keeping it at the forefront.”
Mashburn said without that funding, the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals would be unable to offer commercial flights.
Both Holland and Mashburn said the delegation in D.C. was very receptive to the concerns of the local leaders and next steps will include taking those issues and finding solutions.
Holland said it was imperative to have the meetings in person to ensure the Shoals is not a forgotten community.
As of now, there’s been no official word on if or when that federal proposal would go into effect.