OPINION: Furniture, airline face challenges

Both the furniture industry in Mississippi and SeaPort Airlines made important pitches last week, but their success – or failure – is still uncertain.
For what it was worth, the Mississippi Furniture Association did a good job explaining its situation to Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant last week.
Officials took him around a couple of plants, explained in detail the challenges the industry faces and told him how much they needed help.
Bryant listened. He asked questions. He told them he would fight for them.
But he also was honest, telling them that he would make no empty promises, and that in order to get tax credit legislation through, compromises had to be made.
Bryant called me after his tour and an industry luncheon to emphasize that he wanted very much to help the furniture industry.
“I don’t want to pass a bill just to have it passed and then have it vetoed,” he said. “That won’t do them any good. It won’t do anybody good.”
He said that he wanted to craft legislation in such a way that Gov. Haley Barbour will sign it. Barbour vetoed the last bill.
Legislators at last week’s meeting said they worked long and hard on the bill and were surprised that Barbour vetoed it. They said his office never indicated it ever had problems with it.
Maybe it was breakdown in communications, or maybe it was a mixed message. In any case, Barbour didn’t like it and killed it.
The state Legislature, which passed the bill unanimously, didn’t put up a fight.
With the 2010 session starting in a little more than two weeks, Bryant said the bill this time around likely will face a tougher time making it through the Senate – where he presides – without a few tweaks.
He didn’t say what they might be, but it’s likely that the $2,000 tax credit that furniture leaders are asking would have to be reduced.
Even with a compromise, however, the final decision will still rest with the man who vetoed the first bill.

SeaPort’s challenge
Speaking of up in the air, SeaPort Airlines’ bid to provide service in Tupelo depends on its ability to persuade city leaders to tell the Department of Transportation that they’d like the agency to at least look at the bid.
But that seems unlikely. While some of the city councilmen who listened to SeaPort’s proposal last week said they think the airline could work, they balked at having to decide in less than a week to throw that kind of support to the company.
SeaPort said that without support from city or airport leaders, the DOT would have no choice but to choose Mesaba Airlines, which currently provides service to Tupelo.
But SeaPort would have been wise to come to Tupelo much earlier to make its case and to build support.
SeaPort’s proposed seven daily flights look promising, far better than the three Mesaba is offering. But city leaders have said they prefer a bigger plane. SeaPort has nine-passenger planes, Mesaba uses 34-seat planes.
Too bad we couldn’t combine the two bids. Now THAT would be a compromise.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal