Jan. 3, 2019

As the executive director of the Wayne County Mississippi Economic Development District, Sean Dunlap is familiar with the challenges faced by rural communities when it comes to economic growth and infrastructure, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

“We all remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The damage that hurricane inflicted wiped out coastal airports and impeded access for those most in need to get supplies, food and water. As a result, our airport, the Waynesboro Municipal Airport and small aircraft served as primary access for relief efforts heading south to the coastal communities,” Dunlap wrote in an op-ed piece published in The Meridian Star newspaper. “The value of these aircraft, also called general aviation, was highlighted by that disaster, and since then the community has looked at the airport in a whole new way.”

General aviation also supports the timber industry in Mississippi, which contributes more than $200 million annually to the state’s economy, by providing increased access to clients and buyers. “These facilities are often far from major roads and in areas that are difficult to reach by car,” wrote Dunlap. “Not only does our airport help to facilitate these business operations, but it also plays an important role in protecting the timber industry from harmful pests.”

Dunlap also said many investors are attracted to the area because of the airport and the ability to easily travel in the area. With many investors running operations in multiple locations, access to the Waynesboro Municipal Airport enables them to travel between operations with ease.

“Local airports are an important part of the infrastructure for towns across our state,” he wrote. “There are 65 public-use general aviation airports throughout Mississippi, and each one of them plays an important role in supporting their communities.”

Read Dunlap’s full op-ed in The Meridian Star.