The real truth about Jackson’s airport
Published 10:05 am Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Let’s talk facts about the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. First, Jackson’s airport system originated in 1928. JMAA was created in 1960 to hire a professional aviation staff and provide guidance and oversight for the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport and Hawkins Field Airport. Both airports are located within the City of Jackson.
Second, there are still some major misunderstandings about what led to Southwest Airlines’ departure. Fact: Southwest Airlines announced to the public its decision to leave Jackson in December 2013. This was a business decision made by Southwest Airlines based on its own internal business model and its projections for the airline industry, not some fault of JMAA staff and/or its board.
Third, the Board of Commissioners is charged with hiring the chief executive officer of JMAA who is then responsible for the day-to-day operations of the airports. Upon being presented with the challenge of selecting a new CEO, the JMAA Board hired Carl Newman, an eminently qualified CEO who is currently first vice-chair of the American Association of Airport Executives, the pre-eminent organization in the aviation industry.
Fourth, although Mr. Newman has been on the job for only one year as of Jan. 2, the Central Mississippi area has already begun to see the results of this board’s excellent choice to lead Jackson’s airports for many years to come. Among many other accomplishments over this past year, Mr. Newman’s leadership has led to the following:
• JMAA is financially sound and well-managed as evidenced by the historic decision to refinance most of its long-term debt with Trustmark National Bank, creating almost $4 million in debt savings.
• In collaboration with Entergy Mississippi, JMAA has qualified 211 acres of the East Metro Corridor as an “Entergy Mississippi Economic Development Qualified Site.” This means that those 211 acres constitute a development-ready industrial site that has undergone a rigorous review process including zoning, infrastructure, property ownership, environmental studies, utilities and transportation assessments. In short it is shovel ready!
• Mr. Newman has hired additional staff members who have highly-regarded aviation certifications. He has also promoted and hired highly qualified individuals from within the organization and the local community. JMAA has initiated projects to create a strategic plan and review concessions.
• The board authorized CEO Newman to hire a manager just for Hawkins Field to maximize the efficient, effective, and profitable operation of that airport.
JMAA’s airports provide services to the central region of our state and beyond. JMAA serves citizens westward to the LA line, northward to Leflore and Grenada Counties, eastward to the AL line, southward to Pike and Adams counties and many other areas throughout the central region of our state and beyond. JMAA is poised to make a great financial impact on the central Mississippi region with pending developments and partnership opportunities. The JMAA Board of Commissioners appreciates the trust placed in us, and we will continue to make sure that the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport and the Hawkins Field Airport are run by top-notch aviation experts. I am prayerful that all of the citizens of this great state become fully informed about the implications and consequences that the proposed legislation to takeover Jackson’s airport system would have not only for Jackson, but also on airports everywhere in this state. Jackson’s airports are under attack today, but it could be other airports in the state tomorrow. You must ask yourself this one question: “Why would there be a call for such drastic actions when JMAA is an efficiently managed organization, making a profit, and poised to do even greater things for the central region of the state?”
JMAA is on the right path. There is no reason to attempt an illegal, eminent domain take-over.
Rosie L. T. Pridgen, Ph.D., is chairman of Board of Commissioners