Beginning June 7, the Dane County Regional Airport will be offering daily nonstop flights to and from San Francisco — a move many anticipate to reduce travel time for University of Wisconsin students and connect them to the business and tech hub in the Bay Area.
People flying between Dane County Regional Airport and San Francisco International Airport currently do so through connecting or indirect flights. By adding direct service between Madison and the Bay Area, United Airlines will allow for a reduction in travel time.
Martin Ganco, University of Wisconsin associate professor in management and human resources, supports the new direct service and all that it may offer his students.
“Having direct connections between cities facilitates mobility and the flow of knowledge,” Ganco said. “This will definitely help our campus from the business school perspective in bringing in venture capitalists, investors and more companies for our career fairs.”
Ganco said it is very common for his students to become involved in start-up company activity, even while they are still taking classes, which is why he hopes easier access between the two cities will foster more opportunity for the UW community.
Beyond business ventures, the direct flight service will make it easier for leisure travelers and San Francisco-based students to move between the two cities without the “hassle” of connecting flights, UW freshman Ryan Finnane said.
“Having a connection between SFO and Madison will cut off at least a few hours of travel time, which is huge when you’re traveling alone,” Finnane said. “As a student, this is going to make coming home a lot easier.”
For Madison as a whole, direct flight service could mean more job growth and innovation in the city that CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real estate company and investment firm, ranked first on its list of tech talent momentum markets.
Madison’s Economic Development Director Matthew Mikolajewski is “definitely very excited” for a direct connection to San Francisco because of intent on continuing Madison’s upward trend of innovation and business growth.
“We have a lot of tech-based businesses in Madison, and many of them have ties to the Bay Area,” Mikolajewski said. “Having that direct flight between the two cities is really going to be beneficial to our businesses … [it] could help assuage some investors.”
The reduced travel time likely will incentivize business visits to Madison and improve its rapidly growing tech sector, Mikolajewski said.
A 2016 study published in The Journal of Finance found that direct flight service increases the level of interaction between venture capitalists and their portfolio companies, which in turn heightens innovation and the probability of a successful outcome for those businesses.
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Andrew Courter, a UW alum residing in San Francisco, co-founded the tech startup Highly, which allows people to highlight articles on their mobile devices and then share those highlights and comments with friends.
Courter estimated that he makes between six and eight trips from San Francisco to Madison every year to visit family and collaborate in person with his Madison-based co-founder.
Though he currently manages to make the semi-cross country trek through connecting or indirect flights, Courter believes the new direct service will save valuable time.
“There is something special about working together in person, so we absolutely make time and make budget to come and see each other, but it takes time away from your family,” Courter said.
Courter added changing a full day of travel to a half day of travel is more meaningful than people might think.
The new direct flight service has been met with excitement from the community, Courter thinks the change will be rather inconspicuous, which, in his opinion, is a good thing.
“I don’t notice right now that I can do a direct flight to Seattle, but it’s great,” Courter said. “It’s going to be little by little in the background, it’s not gonna be all of a sudden a line of investors in Madison.”
Courter nonetheless said having direct flight service to San Francisco is undoubtedly “a win.” Despite this, he believes the positive impact on Madison may take time to come to fruition, a sentiment that Mikolajewski voiced as well.
Come June, United Airlines’ decision, which was years in the making, will become a reality.
Brent McHenry, Dane County Regional Airport marketing and communications director, hopes this is just the first step in attaining more direct flights through additional airlines, but for now, the promise of innovation and economic development will suffice.
“Any time that you can connect, nonstop, two tech corridors, it really speeds up and gives a finesse to that ability to do business in the high tech sector market,” McHenry said. “It’ll save time, it’ll save energy and it’ll save costs.”