BY LENA MITCHELL
A $475,000 federal grant to Tupelo Regional Airport should go a long way toward helping Tupelo secure a second airline, the airport's executive director Terry Anderson said Monday.
"What this means is it allows us to entertain an additional air service," Anderson said. "The major portion covers equipment for station operations, advertising and marketing for not only new air service but also our existing air service, so Northwest would be included in that."
While the Northwest Airlines connection takes passengers to Memphis, the main thrust of attracting new service is to create a connection in Atlanta.
"Based on previous surveys and studies, Atlanta is an untapped resource here in terms of route structure," Anderson said.
"We're not bringing in an airline to compete with Northwest but trying to expand service for people who want to fly out of Tupelo."
Two years of effort by Anderson went into acquiring the grant, said Dan Kellum, chairman of Tupelo Airport Authority.
"This money is for marketing and certain other support for air service, even a subsidy up to a certain point," Kellum said. "This money goes with a travel bank that (Anderson) has put together, a commitment from local businesses, industries, the University of Mississippi and Itawamba Community College to travel on the new airline."
Tupelo is one of 35 airports nationwide to receive grants this year totaling $20 million.
"Matched with airport money, potential travel bank money and money from the city, it ends up being more than $800,000," Anderson said.
"That's a serious commitment, a good chunk of money to keep an airline from those first year woes."
The grant from the Department of Transportation was announced last week.