State passes incentive program for air service

An incentive plan passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant last week ties increases in air service at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and other airports in the state with advertising for the new or enhanced flights.

Senate Bill 2785 authorized the creation of Mississippi Air Service Development Program and gets the state involved in an important facet of economic development, said Clay Williams, director of the Gulfport airport.

The bill didn’t provide funding for the program this year but Williams said Mississippi Airports Association, which endorsed and promoted the bill, will go back to the legislature next year to seek funding.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, sponsored the legislation.

“In recent years we’ve seen a decline in the number of flights coming into the Gulf Coast,” Tindell said.

He said the beauty of this program for South Mississippi is the airlines will get an incentive when they add a flight or increase service from Houston, Memphis, Dallas, Washington and other cities and the money they will receive will be used to advertise the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“We’ve got to market ourselves as a destination,” he said.