The airport would use the money to help an airline cover startup costs of opening nonstop service between Boise and a major hub such as New York City, Atlanta or Washington, D.C.
The more money the airport puts up, the more likely it is to receive a U.S. Department of Transportation grant, airport director Rebecca Hupp said.
In fact, Hupp predicted the amount of matching money from donors will be "the key deciding factor" in the federal agency's decision to award the grant to Boise or competitors.
"They want the community to have a stake in the success of the service because that indicates that there really is demand for the service," she said.
On Wednesday, the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce said it had committed $20,000 to the cause. Hupp said the airport has received between $75,000 and $100,000 in matching money so far from the city of Boise, the state of Idaho and a variety of private businesses. Her goal is to double that amount by July 26 - the date the application is due.
"The airport can make a persuasive case for the need for this service and the airport's eligibility for this grant," Hupp said. "We have a good opportunity. As good as any and better than many."
The airport could help pay an airline's costs for leasing airport space, buying equipment, hiring people or covering the lag time between when service becomes available and when it turns a profit.
Airports that are small hubs or not hubs can apply for the grant, Hupp said. About 80 airports applied for last year's grant, and Hupp expects stiff competition this year.
Nonstop service to the East Coast would be a major benefit to businesses, said Bill Connors, the chamber's president and CEO.
"A connection to an East Coast hub - whether it's New York, Newark, D.C., Atlanta - all those cities are major hub cities for specific airlines and that just opens up a whole network, not just to the East Coast, but to Europe. And that's huge for us," Connors said.
Hupp said the airport isn't specifying which hub it prefers.
"It's best to leave it open because it increases your opportunity to actually be able to utilize the grant," she said. "So if we were to specify one hub, (and) if we had another carrier that had an interest in serving another hub, the grant wouldn't be transferable."
Each hub has its own benefits, Connors said.
A flight to Newark or New York City would make travel faster and easier to Boston, Philadelphia and other cities that can be reached by high-speed train.
Service between the state capital and the nation's capital would expedite frequent government travel.
A nonstop to Atlanta would open the possibility of quick trips to and from South America.
Chamber representatives are talking to businesses to find out which East Coast hub is the most desired destination, Connors said.
Hupp expects to find out by fall whether Boise won the grant.
Sven Berg: 377-6275