The top site executive for Cisco in RTP is heading up a drive to bring an international flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. IBM, Cisco, Quintiles and GlaxoSmithKline are among the businesses supporting the effort.

They are all part of the group of area businesses that on Thursday pledged $500,000 to help attract more international flights.

Just as RDU actively sought daily connections to Silicon Valley and Los Angeles which paid off two years ago, now the airport and its allies want to add to the region’s economic appeal to businesses by making international flight easier.

The Regional Transportation Alliance, which represents more than 100 businesses, has dubbed its three-year pledge drive ASAP, or the Air Service Advancement Project.

Ed Paradise of Cisco is the RTA chairman.

The regional business community appreciates the $1.4 billion impact that a single international flight can have on our growing market over time,” Paradise said. “The RTA is launching the ASAP to demonstrate our commitment to strengthening international air service at RDU.”

Primary goals of the group include:

  • Sustain and increase nonstop service to Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.
  • Maximize regional competitiveness with worldwide markets via international flight options.
  • Spur and retain a multi-million dollar annual economic impact created by each international flight.
  • Support the ability to attract business growth and top talent to the Research Triangle Region.

“As a region and as a business community, we must recognize the impact RDU International Airport has on our economy and region. Air service development is economic development,” Bruce Sargent, an IBM executive who chairs the group’s air service committee, said in a statement.

The project will create a $500,000 investment fund – half cash and the rest in-kind contributions – to supplement RDU Airport Authority’s existing $500,000 commitment to marketing international air service.

To date, the RTA effort has received $66,000 in cash pledges from companies and organizations and $168,000 in-kind commitments from partners.

“This program sends a strong message to airlines that our business community is engaged in air service recruitment and is committed to strengthening nonstop international service from RDU,” airport Director Michael Landguth said in a statement.

The news and Observer reported that possible targets for international flights include Paris and Frankfurt.