Chamber to Tallahassee: Consider independent airport authority

From the Tallahassee Democrat

Business leaders want the city to relinquish its role as primary management for Tallahassee International Airport and pursue an independent airport authority.

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s board wants the city to consider the major change after director Chris Curry took a job last month to head the Mobile Airport Authority in Mobile, Alabama.

“The Tallahassee International Airport is an essential part of our local economy. After serving on the Airport Advisory Council for 17 years, I am pleased with the progress we have made of late to advance the airport, but much more is still needed,” said Sue Dick, the Chamber’s president and CEO, in a statement.

The Chamber has more than 1,400 members, representing 55,000 employees. In recent months, it has taken a more public stance on issues affecting the business community. The Chamber last week announced plans to conduct a study on local government consolidation.

Creating an independent authority is expected to be a topic of discussion at January’s City Commission retreat, which takes place at the airport. The recurring topic prompted commissioners to request a formal presentation on its pros and cons.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Nancy Miller said improving the airport is a community problem, not a city problem. She stressed city and airport officials, past and present, have not been “sitting on their hands all of these years.”

She said she’s eager to review whatever information prompted the Chamber to pledge its support for an independent authority. Miller also said she’s open to exploring the best way to improve the airport, which has been a thorny issue for passengers and business leaders frustrated with limited flights and high prices.

“Whatever we do as a community, I’m on board, but it better work,” Miller said.

City records show 55,966 departure and arrival flights last month, a decrease from the 59,470 flights during the same time last year. However, overall flights in 2016 showed the most improvement in the last five years.

Interim Airport Director David Pollard said he’s preparing details for the City Commission to review. He wouldn’t say if he supports the independent authority option.

“It’s something that’s worth taking a look at,” Pollard said.

Dick said the airport has an “accomplished interim director in place,” and this transition period may be a prime opportunity to consider a structural shift.

“An independent airport authority is a successful model used nationwide,” Dick said. “Our board is encouraging the city to explore an independent authority structure as a way to move the airport to the next level of success.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.