J.E.T. NATCHEZ: Time for Our airport to soar again!

Published 8:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2022

Jobs. Education. Tourism. Put them together and you have J.E.T. Natchez, our initiative for bringing commercial air service back to our airport! Now is the time – and there is no better place for this to happen than Natchez-Adams County.

This week, it was my pleasure to participate in another national conference on air travel – the 2022 Routes America Conference held in San Antonio. For the second time in many years (the first time being last November in Baton Rouge) Natchez had a presence. If we are to compete in this vital industry, we must have a seat at the table. And at Routes America, that is literally what happened. Richard Nelson, the director of our airport, and Jeremiah Gerald, our consultant, arranged very positive meetings with several commercial carriers. It was rewarding to “sit at the table” with industry experts, promoting Natchez and expecting good things to happen as a result.

With the Natchez Renewal taking off, we are hopeful that J.E.T. Natchez will soon add commercial flights to our airport’s existing corporate and private services. Through the collaboration of county, city, state and federal partners, millions in grants have been obtained and are now being invested in improvements to the runways and lighting systems. More grants are being sought that will allow risk mitigation funds to be put in place – an important component of any commercial air service contract.

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A driving factor behind all of this is a comprehensive professional study commissioned by the county and the city. Compilation of data through various methods showed that over 800 people in our area fly commercially each week – 100 per day if you look at the travelers with just a Natchez, MS zip code. This is the kind of demand that gets the attention of commercial carriers!

There is no doubt the Natchez Renewal is driving this demand. With over 600 houses sold since 2020, over 900 building permits issued, and over 1000 new jobs created, Natchez is now considered to be one of Mississippi’s fastest-growing economies. Our sales tax performance is among the strongest in the state, and we aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Add to this the continued commitment of the cruise boats, American Queen, American Cruise Lines, and Viking, and their 2,000+ tourists per week. ACL has already indicated a desire to fly passengers in and out of Natchez and start and end cruises here once commercial air service is established. This will be an enormous boost for us, not to mention demand for hotel rooms and more business for tourism!

USA Today has ranked us, “Top 10 Most Historic Small Cities.” Forbes has ranked us, “Top 10 Best Places to Visit During the Pandemic.” Town and Country has ranked us #13 on the list of “Top 50 Must Visit Places in America.” We are the budding new “Hollywood of the South,” and we have become a Top Outdoor Destination for Festivals – Hank Williams Jr. in 2021 and Patti LaBelle coming in 2022!

It’s happening in Natchez. It’s just a matter of time. Commercial flights are coming back—Natchez Deserves More!

Dan M. Gibson is Mayor of Natchez