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"Mississippi airport officials to privatize business division"
Friday, January 6, 2012
Airport officials to privatize business division
By C.J. LeMaster
WTVA-TV (NBC), Tupelo (MS)
TUPELO, Miss. -- Those who've flown out of Tupelo Regional Airport on
commercial aircraft may never notice the hangars located near the facility's
Those structures house approximately 40 private aircraft, generating revenue
for the facility through rental/housing fees, fuel and other items.
But airport officials say the fixed-based operator Tupelo Aviation
Unlimited, which supplies these services, is hampered because it's
controlled by the airport, and therefore subject to government restrictions.
Airport executive director Josh Abramson said it all boils down to one
central issue: private ownership versus government control.
Abramson said he looked at many other factors before going forward with
Thursday's announcement to privatize Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.
"One of the downsides of being a government entity is that we have to go
through all the process, staffing and procurement that most government
[organizations] do," Abramson said. "When you have a private entity, they
have more flexibility and can react a lot faster to whatever the environment
Abramson said the decision was made for the future of the Tupelo Regional
Airport -- specifically to make it more financially sound and less
restricted -- but what happens to those already employed?
"Hopefully [the new management] will continue the employment of the people
already working for me right now," Abramson said. "I can tell you right now,
and I told my staff earlier today, we have the best qualified staff in town.
They're already doing the job and they're doing it well."
FBO manager David Smith said he doesn't see the change as a bad thing at
all, especially where the employees are concerned.
"I am very excited about this announcement and the possibility of another
private company coming to the airport," Smith said. "I do understand that it
could mean my job, but I will campaign for that and I will campaign for the
jobs of my employees. The way I feel, what better employee do you have than
one who's already trained?"
One of those employees, Sam Clifford, said he remains upbeat about the
changeover, despite some reservations he and others have.
"Our employees here, some of them have been with this organization for over
ten years," Clifford said. "They know the customers, they know the
airplanes, they know the equipment and they know how to get things done. I
don't see that changing. We're just gonna have another group in charge of
the whole organization and we'll go on from there."
Abramson said the deadline for these proposals to be submitted is Feb. 10.
After that, a selection committee will review all the proposals and hope to
have a contract in place in March.
Abramson also said the building and hangar will undergo an extensive
$200,000 renovation process that is scheduled to begin in April.
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