There's a saying in Texas that the only thing you'll find in the middle of the road is a dead armadillo.

True enough. There's very little in the Lone Star State that adheres to the center of the road. In Texas, opinions inevitably reach to the extremes whenever it comes to discussion of politics "” or economics.

Take the recent announcement by Delta Airlines that it's closing the Dallas-Fort Worth hub on Jan. 31. A hue and cry went up in the Texas media, but there were opinions voiced from an incredible variety of sides. Some even suggested that the Delta departure "” far from an economic catastrophe "” will reap long-range benefits in the form of cheaper airfares offered by smaller carriers who will inevitably seep in to fill the Delta void.

Readers and viewers in Cincinnati heard little of this spirited debate. In our local media, the Dallas decision was immediately followed by a round of drastic "what-if" stories: What happens if Delta cuts its losses at the Cincin-nati/Northern Kentucky International Airport hub? What catastrophe will befall our region then? How many decades will it take for Greater Cincinnati to right itself "” if ever?

The dramatic pronouncements continue, but no one has offered an alternative scenario: What if the flying public here would actually gain by Delta's absence "” at least in the long term? Would a Delta departure represent the end of an economic juggernaut, or "” more accurately "” the end of an economic stranglehold?

While the River City media takes a "Chicken Little" approach to this issue, predicting economic devastation, I'm left wondering if it's not so much a case that the sky is falling as that the stars are realigning.

Fact is, hub airports dominated by a single airline get away with charging outrageous fares. Such a monopoly stifles the competition. When bargain fare competitors attempt to do business at CVG (remember Vanguard?), they are crushed. The only airlines that survive must match fares rather than compete. The business traveler "” and company owner "” pay a burdensome price.

A Delta departure "” no argument from this corner "” would be a tremendous loss in terms of the cachet that comes with a world-class international airport. We'd likely lose all those direct flights to London, Paris, and the like. We'd lose a bragging right for a region in dire need of bragging rights.

But how often do any of us desperately need that direct flight to London at a moment's notice? An immense choice of flights and destinations is a wonderful thing, but who can afford it?

Let no one walk away from this column suggesting I don't think a Delta departure is a serious challenge. Just examine a University of North Texas economic impact study recently completed on the Dallas exit. Some 254 flights daily trimmed to 21. A $35 million annual loss in landing and gate fees paid to the airport there. A $90 million loss in property taxes annually.

A serious challenge. But not Arm-ageddon. Not the End of Days.

Keep in mind, if Delta pulls out of Cincinnati, it's not as if they'll take the bricks and mortar with them. They won't roll up the runways and crate the terminals for shipping back to the home office. The airport infrastructure is here to stay.

We're not inevitably wed to Delta's dimming fortunes. The carrier's grim financial future does not necessarily equate to Greater Cincinnati's future. My bet is this: Our airport, in 10 years' time, will be well served by a range of lower-cost carriers that will rush to fill whatever void occurs. Nature "” and the airline industry "” abhors a vacuum.

Market forces will come into play, and the stagnant nature of a monopoly will give way to competitive pricing. (Already American Airlines has stepped in to add flights at Dallas-Fort Worth.) Mid-sized and small businesses that couldn't afford flying their sales personnel and procurement officers all over creation will have that option. New bids will be won, new contracts will flow into the region. And air travelers will stop driving to airports in Dayton and other adjoining cities for better deals.

Delta is on life support, no doubt about that. The old model of a giant carrier likely can't survive in these days of competitive online ticket bookers such as Expedia and Travelocity. The Atlanta-based carrier has lost $6 billion (with a "B") in the past three years, and, in an effort to stave off bankruptcy, plans this month to cut 6,000 gate agents, flight attendants, mechanics, and baggage handlers "” 10 percent of its worldwide work force (the airline employs 4,000 here).

An acquaintance of mine who works for Delta simply shakes his head when asked about the future of the carrier. "The price of jet fuel continues to go up. And they can only cut the salaries so much. Then what?"

An important clarification to any discussion of work force reduction: Even the Dallas-Fort Worth economic impact study notes that Delta flight crew personnel can "commute" from their homes in another state to a flight hub, and that some 50 percent of flight personnel are choosing to keep their homes in Dallas. In other words, just because Delta slices off flights here, it is not automatically assumed every pilot or every flight attendant who lives here will automatically choose to move. Many will keep their jobs and homes in Greater Cincinnati, and we'll keep the residual impact of those jobs. Not a small point.

Delta will leave or not leave. Or go bankrupt. There's not much we can do about this. The essential question is, then, what in a decade will we think? That the departure of the Delta hub was the end of all hope for the Tristate's economic health?

Or that it was all a bunch of hubbub?

Felix Winternitz is editor of Cincy Business. Email him at