Mike Hainsey, the executive director of Golden Triangle Regional Airport, talks Wednesday about the airport’s economic impact and future. The airport created $272.5 million in economic activity in 2012, according to a report recently published by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 7, 2014 10:54:03 AM
The Golden Triangle Regional Airport created $272.5 million in economic activity in 2012.
Regional airports through the state produce $2.5 billion in economic activity, according to a report made by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
GTRA plays a critical role in maintaining and attracting the presence of industry within the Golden Triangle, said Mike Hainsey, the executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport Authority. Without the airport, the area would not have attracted many of the businesses that now call the Golden Triangle home.
"Yokohama, as part of the negotiations when they came here, one of their requirements was that we would maintain and hopefully grow air service here at GTR," Hainsey said.
Atlanta is both the destination and source of all Delta Airlines flights at GTR. Passengers can be to the airport with the most global connections in the world in 36 minutes. Delta is currently the only airline flying to GTR.
But Hainsey said the airport is working to attract an airline that will fly to a Western hub. This would help attract more companies to the area, and help companies who are already here take more direct flights. The economic impact of the airport is one that reflects growth within the region in recent years.
"We're kind of a mirror of the local economy," Hainsey said.
Yokohama would benefit from a Western hub. So would Dallas-based Airbus.
"We're trying to get westbound service," Hainsey said. "There are several things we can do to attract new airline businesses here and we're in the process of doing that."
The main part of that process has been applying for a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant is classified as risk abatement, which means it would be a revenue guarantee for any new airline that chose to fly into GTR. If GTR receives the grant, they will be able to offset start-up costs for any new airline in their first year flying to GTR.
According to research done by GTR, 80 percent of their fliers are business travelers.
Hainsey said that high business travel gives GTR a high amount of international fliers; 15 percent of travelers using GTR are foreign, which is well above the national average of 8 percent. The high number of business travelers and international travelers come from local firms and Mississippi State University faculty.
More non-business travelers have also started to use GTR on a more frequent basis. Memphis is no longer a Delta Airlines hub, so any flights out of there will connect to Atlanta or Minneapolis, Hainsey said. There has also been an increase in customers from Tupelo. The three main airports in Mississippi are now Jackson, Gulfport and here, Hainsey said. Mississippi State football brings in the biggest non-business crowds to the airport.
Hainsey said westbound service could be American Airlines to Dallas or United Airlines to Houston or Denver. He noted that airlines in general are in a state of decline, and that expansion to Western hub will take time. But Hainsey believes it will happen.
"As long as we continue to grow, it is a question of 'when,' not 'if,'" he said.
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