EDITORIAL: Pushing ahead

By NEMS Daily Journal

After making the best of a new and less-than-hoped-for Delta Air Lines schedule for Tupelo Regional Airport, airport officials already have their focus on further developments in the fast-changing commercial aviation business.
Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said Tuesday he and other Tupelo leaders continue discussions with Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Mississippi officials about a possible flight connecting Tupelo and Cincinnati, an airport frequently used by employees at Toyota’s headquarters in Erlanger, Ky.
Toyota’s Corolla assembly plant near Blue Springs is scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, and it’s believed the need for a Toyota-related commercial flight will increase as that development moves forward.
Abramson said discussions “all are really based on what Toyota wants and needs. We are working on creating a proposal for Toyota.”
Abramson said a proposal could involve funding under provisions of the original agreement and memorandum passed to provide the state’s incentives for Toyota to build its plant at the Wellspring site, developed in Union County by the PUL Alliance, a coalition of Boards of Supervisors and principal city governments in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties.
Shane Homan, senior vice president of economic development for the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, said the state’s incentives package and memorandum of understanding contain authority and funds for increasing the availability of commercial air service at Tupelo Regional in cooperation with Toyota. Homan said the airline wouldn’t necessarily be Delta and the connection wouldn’t necessarily be to Cincinnati if Toyota needs service to another connection.
Homan also said Toyota has a long history of working in such situations for mutual benefit – to Tupelo and the region and benefit to the company, in this case.
Were an airline other than Delta chosen, if a flight is warranted, that could increase competition for pricing and schedules, adding consumer choice in service at Tupelo Regional.
This week’s announcement of a 15-flight-per-week schedule connecting Tupelo and Memphis culminated more than a year of discussions and negotiations with Delta, the Federal Aviation Administration and the congressional delegation about service under the Essential Air Service federal subsidy.
The new schedule starts Sept. 7.
The long-sought Tupelo-Atlanta connection is eliminated in the new schedule. That and other issues can be revisited as Tupelo Regional markets itself for what appears to be unprecedented opportunity coming with Toyota and associated growth.
In early 2012 the dynamics of service change when Delta changes to regional jets.
The scheduled lengthening of the Tupelo runway is in the background of all the changes and growth.