The Memphis International Airport has had a dramatic decrease in the amount of traffic that goes through there, and the chairman of the Shelby County Commission says some of the blame lies with the Tennessee state government.
Shelby County Commission Chairman Heidi Shafer talked to The Tennessee Star in response to a recent New York Times article that detailed how Memphis International Airport has lost almost two-thirds of its passengers in recent years.
“All of West Tennessee is in the process of adjustment…trying to adjust to the reality of heavy competition with neighboring states’ tax incentives, the move away from brick and mortar, a Nashville-based government that mainly focuses its dollars and action on the middle and east divisions of the state (think Mega-Site), and an airport that must balance crucial cargo traffic with de-hubbed passenger status,” Shafer told The Star.
In a report that came out this month, the Times described the Memphis airport as “a glaring casualty of an airline merger that transformed the American aviation industry but cost the Mid-South’s most important city its status as a hub.”
As the Times went on to say, there once was a time when Northwest Airlines was the dominant carrier. Delta Airlines eventually gobbled it up. Delta then decided it only needed one hub in the South, in Atlanta.
“The decision cost Memphis almost two-thirds of its passengers,” according to the Times.
“From more than 11 million in 2007, the last full year before the merger announcement, the count fell to about four million last year.”
The result — three concourses are left and most of its gates are unused. Airports officials will spend $219 million to close and renovate one concourse and mothball the other two.
Anyone who wants to see the Memphis International Airport return to its glory days should start paying more attention to state and local politics, Shafer said.
“This governor’s race is crucial for West Tennessee. We need a governor who will use his or her influence to get around the road blocks blocking us from being competitive,” Shafer said.
“We need special incentives for West Tennessee to attract business, and we need a clear plan to get the Mega-Site operational FAST to spur our economy. If the economy in West Tennessee picks up, the airport problem will solve itself.”