From building hangars to new ramps, Mississippi Department of Transportation is awarding grants to help maintain airports statewide. Mike Forester is with the Louisville-Winston County Airport Authority. MDOT is giving the facility nearly $43,000 for equipment to move and power aircraft without starting the engines. Forester says the airport helps them compete for businesses and is a factor in a plywood company building the largest plant in North America in Winston County.
"Just the last five or six years we've gone from being a typical little sleepy small town airport with guys flying Cessnas around on Sunday afternoon with the kids, to about 80 percent of our traffic and it is significant traffic now, is all business based," said Forester.
With the help of funds from the Federal Aviation Administration, 17 airports will receive $12,000 to nearly half-a-million dollars for improvements. Mike Hainsey with the Golden Triangle Regional Airport says local airports are critical for economic growth. He's seeing an increase in international businesses locating in Columbus. Companies want mass transit for corporate travelers and their employees. Hainsey says the airport is getting a $31,000 grant to build a bus stop that ties into Mississippi State University's bus system, which goes to Starkville.
"We're tied into a program that MDOT is working with Smart Bus Program to expand it to where people can then go from either the university, Starkville itself, come out to the airport and from there be hubbed-out to all the industries," said Hainsey.
Mike Hainsey says 80,000 people fly Delta Airlines in and out of the Columbus airport every year.