Tupelo airport hopes new private FBO keeps employees

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Privatizing the fixed base operator at Tupelo Regional Airport won’t necessarily mean the 10 people working there now will be sent packing.
In fact, airport executive director Josh Abramson said their experience should be considered an asset for whatever private entity takes over Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.
“The airport authority is definitely concerned about retaining the staff,” he said. “We stand by the fact that we have the most qualified, best-trained and most experienced staff in town. We cannot directly tell the prospective bidder who they have to employ; however, how staffing will be handled is in the proposal, and it will be a weighted factor (in choosing the bid).”
On Thursday, the airport said it was looking for a private company to run the operations of the FBO, which provides services such as fueling, aircraft rental, hangar rental, tie-downs and parking.
Abramson said the airport would save money by privatizing the FBO. With a private company taking over, the airport would pay the firm a fixed fee to cover its staffing and management fees. It also would set a certain percentage of the profit for the company.
The deadline for bid proposals is Feb. 10. The Tupelo Airport Authority, which oversees the airport, wants to make its selection by March 1. The winning company would enter a five-year contract through March 31, 2017.
The airport said it will finance office renovations up to $200,000. The winning bidder can propose what it wants to do to make improvements, pending authority approval.
Bidders reviewing the 59-page request for proposal, or RFP, can peruse some numbers provided by the airport.
For example, a fuel sales chart shows 525,400 gallons sold as of Dec. 27, up from 477,552 gallons in 2010. But that’s lower than the 528,977 sold in 2009.
In 2008, the airport sold 744,802 gallons in fuel, while in 2007 that figure was 843,045.
Falling fuel sales have been a national trend, especially with the downturn in the economy, Abramson said.
Overall, Tupelo Aviation Unlimited showed a net profit of $31,596 for the current fiscal year. It proposes a 59 percent increase, to $50,333, for the next fiscal year.
Abramson said the FBO had posted a profit for the first time since 2007, when Tupelo Aviation was created after the airport bought out two former privately owned FBOs.
dennis.seid@journalinc.com