County ponies up $300,000 for airport grant match

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors has agreed to kick in $300,000 for match money needed for an application for a grant, which could ultimately lead to a commercial air carrier at the Natchez-Adams County Airport.

The city is expected to approve $200,000 as its portion of the match for the grant application.

The grant being sought from the U.S. Commerce Department would award $1 million to communities seeking a commercial airline. It requires at least a 20 percent grant, but those who have been successful in winning the grant in the past have pledged much more than the minimum required.

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The grant establishes a contingency fund that serves as risk mitigation money for the prospective airline. That money is only tapped by the airline if the number of seats they project to fill aren’t sold after they begin offering the service.

Dante Weir, who is a member of the airport’s commission, said the grant is very competitive.

“Sixty-five to 70 people are expected to apply for the grant and only 12 to 14 will be awarded,” Weir said. “I think the $500,000 will set us apart.”

Another requirement of the grant is to have a letter of interest from a prospective airline. Airport Director Richard Nelson told the supervisors he met recently with a number of commercial air carriers and emerged from that meeting with letters from four air carriers indicating interest in setting up shop at the Natchez Airport.

The letters do not constitute a commitment from the airline, only interest if the airport is successful in winning the grant.

“We have gotten lots of positive feedback from air services,” Weir said.

Supervisor Ricky Gray made the motion for the county to provide $300,000 in match money.

“I don’t think we got enough information at our last meeting. Since then, I have watched the board of aldermen’s meeting and, since the airport is the county airport, we appreciate the city participating and partnering with us. I recommend the county do the $300,000 and the city do the $200,000,” Gray said.

A meeting of a task force including members of the city, county and business community will meet on Tuesday, March 1, to discuss the grant and hear from a consultant who is working to help secure commercial air service for Natchez.

Supervisors’ President Wes Middleton said the airport is a tremendous asset for the area.

“This is just another example of the city and county working together. This is going to be great for this area,” Middleton said.

Gray’s motion passed with unanimous support.