Newman: “The airport operation is sound and profitable.”

Rosie Pridgen, chair of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, addresses the media during a press conference Tuesday. PHOTO BY SHANDERIA K. POSEY

By Stephanie R. Jones

Contributing Writer

Rosie Pridgen, chair of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority        PHOTO BY SHANDERIA K. POSEY

It’s been a year since Carl D. Newman took the helm at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. On Monday, he gave a report to Jackson Municipal Airport Authority board members, media and community leaders on where the airport stands a year later.

Newman outlined the stats accumulated during his tenure, painting a picture of what’s been going on with the airport. Newman said the airport authority is sound financially, finishing the year with $3 million in net income and a bond rating reaffirmation from Fitch Ratings Agency and Moody’s Investor Services of BBB+. “We have a $100 million balance sheet,” Newman said.

He noted that Southern Airways started providing service after Southwest Airlines left Jackson. Southern provides service to Memphis, Nashville and Destin, Fla. He said JMAA is offering incentives for airlines to operate.

“We are working on an incentive plan for other airlines that provide service to new cities, such as elimination or reduction of expansion fees or terminal fees,” Newman said. He added that JMAA is also providing marketing aid to new airlines in promoting new routes. Some bullet points he listed:

• Closed FY 2016 with $3 million in net operating income, approximately 527 days of cash on hand, and a net equity position of more than $100 million

• Employment of 1,442 persons at Jackson-Evers and Hawkins Field • At Evers International, the year ended with 985,450 passengers. At Evers International, 57,484 total operations (take-offs and landings), an increase of 11.4 percent from the previous year

• Air cargo pounds landed, 77,083,242 at Evers International; 27,647 at Hawkins Field.

Another area of concern for JMAA is a move by state officials to take over management of the airport, however, Newman says the focus of this isn’t pressing. After the state Legislature passed a bill to give authority over the airport to the state, JMAA filed a lawsuit to stop it.

“Until the case is adjudicated, nothing has changed; it’s business as usual at the airport,” Newman said. He further explained that the FAA delivered a statement that said it believes “the way issues like this should be handled is through negotiations between parties.

In the absence of negotiations, the FAA says it will not contemplate a change in governance structure. Newman outlined some priority projects for the authority going forward:

• Hawkins Field improvements including installation of new landscaping and lighting on Ford Avenue

• Replacing street signs on the west side of the airport

• New security fencing • “Ready Return” for car rentals; new food, beverage and retail spaces at Evers International.

As for customer service for those using the airport, Newman said they are promoting an “Internal Customer Service Culture” with high standards being set for airport workers and business partners. JMAA has also added background music in the terminals and hi-definition televisions at every terminal gate. New charging stations for electronic devices are now available throughout the East and West concourses.

Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at srjones13@gmail.com or (601) 454-0372.

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