This year, the Golden Triangle Regional Airport is celebrating its 50th anniversary, with special events and exhibits. But if you want to get a greater sense of what GTRA has meant to our communities, don’t look at the airport facilities, impressive as they are. Instead, look around a 10-to-30 mile radius of the airport.
When GTRA opened in 1971, it was a dot of development in a sea of farmland and forest.
Today, west Lowndes County, including but not limited to the Lowndes County Industrial Park, is one of the busiest industrial/manufacturing centers in the state.
This is no coincidence. The presence of a viable regional airport has long been a major recruiting tool for the industries that continue to come to our area. The symbiotic relationship that exists between those industries and the airport cannot be denied. About 80 percent of the airport’s traffic is business related, and it’s that business travel that has allowed GTRA to do what most regional airports in our state cannot do: Operate as a self-sustaining, profitable airport. While most of the other regional airports rely on federal subsidies to remain in operation, GTRA’s relationships, both in the private and public sectors have ensured its viability and growth.
In addition to the industries who rely on the airport for travel, Mississippi State has used the air service it provides to maintain its role as one of the leading research universities in the nation with research trips originating at GTRA to places all over the world.
Likewise, the relationship with GTRA has been good for Columbus Air Force Base which uses the airport in a variety of ways. The flexibility of having another airport allows CAFB to maintain a robust training schedule, helping ensure that our next generation of Air Force pilots are prepared for their important work.
For leisure travelers, GTRA is an appealing, price-competitive alternative to flying out of Birmingham, Jackson or Memphis.
With infrastructure earmarked for airports across the county, GTRA’s future remains bright. In another 50 years, we may again be amazed at what it becomes.
It is unlikely that, 50 years ago those who played an instrumental role in creating Golden Triangle Regional Airport could have imagined how successful it would prove to be.
But there’s little doubt now just how important the GTRA has been in the growth and development of the region.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.