Amenities at Vicksburg airport vital tool to lure jobs

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

A decision Tuesday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to seek a $296,000 multi-modal grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for work on the Vicksburg Municipal Airport’s fuel apron and parking apron represents another step in making the general aviation airport off U.S. 61 South more attractive to pilots and in turn attract new business and industry.
The airport has gone through tough times. There was an attempt in 1998 by the administration of former mayor Robert Walker to close the airport in favor of the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport across the Mississippi River in Madison Parish, La. In 2011, water from the Mississippi River flood covered a portion of the south runway, closing the airport for a brief period. Both times, the airport survived.
It was during the administration of former mayor Laurence Leyens that the airport underwent a resurgence that included repairs and improvements funded mostly by state and federal funds.
Since 2005, it has benefited from an estimated $3.1 million in federal and state funds that have helped city officials improve the runway, build a new fire station and terminal, and purchase and clear property at the end of the north runway to help pilots approaching the airport.
Some of that funding included:
• $255,365.65 in Federal Aviation Administration and MDOT funds to reseal cracks in the runway, rehabilitate the approach apron and rebuild the taxiway.
• $338,024 in MDOT multi-modal funds for a new fuel farm.
• $118,521 in FAA funds to install taxiway lights.
• $65,000 in FAA funds for a weather warning system.
• $327,000 in Delta Regional Authority funds to purchase and clear land at the end of the north runway.
Those funds indicate a strong belief by state and federal agencies of the airport’s viability, and faith by the current and previous city boards in the airport’s future and its place in the city’s economic development plans.
Airport director Curt Follmer said business at the airport has increased, which is a good indication that pilots notice the improvements and feel comfortable about using the airport.
The Vicksburg Municipal Airport might not have the traffic of regional airports in Jackson or New Orleans, but what it does have makes it an economic driver for Vicksburg.