Josh Abramson has been on the job as executive director of Tupelo Regional Airport since April 19. Abramson, 33, was one of six finalists for the position. Before accepting the job in Tupelo, he had been executive director of the Winchester Airport Authority, a general aviation airport in Franklin County, Tenn.
Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid caught up with Abramson at the Mississippi Airports Association Annual Conference, which was held last week in Tupelo.
Q: You have to wear several hats in your position, but what’s been your biggest priority, and why?
A: My priority is fixing the books for our FBO, our fixed-base operator. The accounting is off. The people who installed it didn’t have the expertise, so the numbers have been wrong from the beginning. So it’s going to take some time to fix that.
The FBO is what generates revenue. It pays the bills. That’s why I have to make sure it’s working as efficiently as possible.
Q: Some critics say the airport isn’t a “regional” airport and should concentrate on general aviation only, rather than trying to be something it’s not. What is your response?
A: The airport has been justified as a useful means of transportation. Four years ago it flew more than 31,000 people and it was profitable for the airlines. The airline wants to pull out now because it’s not profitable to fly out of here.
But there is potential for this market … that’s where we get into proper marketing for the airport and enhanced programs.
Let’s take the scenario of flying out of Tupelo vs. Memphis. There’s the drive to Memphis to consider and the gas, and wear and tear on your car, paying for parking, waiting in long TSA lines … it all adds up.
We want people to know they can fly out of Tupelo. And I want to provide some value-added features, like a dry-cleaning drop-off or having your car cleaned and the oil changed while you’re away. Those are programs we can look at. But we have to fix the FBO first.
Q: What’s your feeling about having to get EAS (Essential Air Service) funds to subsidize air service? Is it like having a black mark against the airport?
A: I don’t like it, I’m not particularly fond of it. But if we don’t use it, somebody else will. I’d like to make air service profitable for everybody, but that’s not going to happen immediately.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal