Transportation is about moving people and goods. Where they go, jobs and money follow. With this simple and proven formula, Mississippi is doing well economically.
As of this month, we have our first direct commercial flight from Jackson to the New York area via Continental Airlines. And this week I announced direct service on American Airlines between the Mississippi Coast and Chicago, beginning December 13.
Since Iíve served as the Ranking Republican on the Senateís Aviation Subcommittee, Iíve made it a point to personally engage airline executives, asking them to bring more flights to Mississippi.
Now from Mississippi you can fly direct by jet to New York, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Orlando, Houston and, as always, Atlanta.
Americanís daily service to Chicago will be aboard the airlineís 44-seat regional jet. It will be offered alongside the direct service American recently initiated between Gulfport/ Biloxi International Airport and Dallas/Ft.Worth three times a day.
Itís about more than getting tourists to the Coast. Airports and air service are critical for modern economic growth statewide. Thatís why weíve seen increased jet service and growth at Tupelo, Meridian, Columbus and Greenville.
When dealing with businesses, I learned long ago the easier people can access our state, the more people will choose to live here and invest here. The first question Iím asked when talking with CEOs usually relates to local air service or airport capacity. Iíve worked to add flights between certain cities in order to accommodate industrial growth.
The flights to Washington, D.C., and Detroit are two examples. Most of Mississippiís new manufacturing jobs have come from the automotive and aerospace industries, particularly defense-related aerospace jobs.
If you want to attract and maintain jobs in those two sectors, you must have good air service to the worldís automotive center centers in Detroit and Tokyo, as well as a direct link to Americaís defense industries, which surround Washington, D.C.
In fact, Iím working now to bring service between Golden Triangle Airport and Dallas to help new industries in the Columbus, Starkville and West Point area, like the new American Eurocopter facility and the upcoming PACCAR truck plant.
Fliers in Northeast Mississippi soon will have access to direct jet service between Tupelo and Delta Airlinesí hub at Cincinnati. Not only will this better connect us to another major Delta hub, it will better connect two primary Toyota manufacturing centers Ė Louisville, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, and the upcoming Toyota plant in Blue Springs, just outside Tupelo.
My quest for better air transportation isnít limited to new flights. Weíve upgraded facilities, too. Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport and Jackson/Evers International Airport have undergone significant renovations and expansions, some of which are still ongoing.
Iíve helped steer federal funds to up and coming airports like the Tunica Facility Ė the latest being my August announcement of $6 million for a runway and taxiway extension there.
Tunica doesnít serve commercial passengers yet, but theyíre courting the airlines. Tunica already has a growing charter aircraft business to bring folks to the casinos. As the Memphis area sees more growth as an international warehousing and distribution hub, and with the kind of commercial and residential development going on in neighboring DeSoto County, we may one day need another commercial airport to serve this region. The Tunica Airport will be ready.
With each passing year, Mississippians have more and more flight options. This is one reason our state is seeing unprecedented economic growth. When people and goods can move about faster and easier, jobs and money follow. Itís a simple but proven formula thatís working for Mississippi.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email