Taking Off with Terry Blue of the Memphis Airport Authority

Mr. Blue gave important updates on the immediate construction around the Airport and the future 

Photos by Dreamboat Photography

The Collierville Chamber welcomed Terry Blue, President and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority to it’s soaring April Membership Meeting. Before his presentation, a variety of announcements were made, starting with Pastor Sam Nichols and Dr. Russell Dyer, new Director of Schools for Collierville Schools, led the audience in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance respectively. Ken Cope, this year’s Chamber’s Board Chairman, then recognized the Church for their constant hospitality, Corporate Cuisine for the delicious meal, and the Chamber’s Premier Partners, who generously support the Chamber financially and through various resources. The Chairman’s final announcement was enthusiastically about the Chamber’s annual Golf Tournament which is May 13. Teams and sponsorships are still available, but very limited and will sell out. Please contact the office (901-853-1949) or visit the event page here for more information.

Ken welcomed Mark Heuberger (pronounced ‘Hi’- ‘Burger’), President and CEO of the Chamber, to the stage for more announcements. Since the February Monthly Meeting, multiple new members joined the CCoC. A number of these companies were recognized at this meeting: Collierville Farmers Market, Heritage Fence Co., Penilton Portable Restrooms, Pittman Physical Therapy, The Soap Factory, and WKNO Public Media. All gave brief overviews of their companies and expressed excitement about being Chamber members.

An audience favorite, The Student of the Month, showcased Robert Gordon, accomplished student-athlete for the Dragons. As a football player, he’s received numerous regional and local awards, including a berth in the Liberty Bowl All-Star High School football game and TSLA All-Region honors as a junior. He also plays lacrosse in the spring for the High School. This fall, he’s taking his talents to the SEC and Texas A&M. This segment was presented by Sara Honeycutt of Patriot Bank and Roger Jones, principal of Collierville High School. Mark explained it was one of the best partnerships the Chamber has made as it highlights some of the best young professionals and the future of the community.

Mark then turned to the meeting’s sponsors: speaker sponsor First Citizens National Bank and Lunch Sponsor Alston Construction. The Chamber President made remarks on First Citizens’ behalf, recognizing their 135 anniversary this year and the Bank’s outstanding reputation in the banking world, along with the Collierville branch’s philanthropic efforts in the community. Chad Lindsay, Regional Vice President of Alston Construction, took the stage to talk about the company’s work with notable names. He also highlighted what makes Alston special: its deep involvement with the community (including the local Balloon Festival that supports education) and his team and the people that work for Alston. “It’s not always about money, but the experience of the client that matters,” Chad explained. This perspective is what separates Alston from other construction companies. Chad concluded his segment by introducing the guest speaker, Mr. Blue.

Terry Blue has been the President and CEO of the Memphis/Shelby County Airport Authority since January, but his presentation was filled with important and interesting facts for anyone who travels via air. One might think he’s held the position for three or four years not months. The Memphis Airport Authority (MAA) is a non-profit and public organization and has an annual budget of $153 million without taking a single penny from local tax dollars.

It’s the world’s second busiest cargo airport, thanks to a vital partnership with Fed Ex. The shipping giant is the Airport’s number one partner, leasing nine hundred acres of the four thousand at the Airport. 2024 presents a record-breaking year of travel. The Airport is seeing an increase in passengers checking through security checkpoints every week. Since shifting from a Hub to an International Airport, MAA has increased the size of planes allowing for more seats and passengers without using more planes. This is reflected in the Passengers per Day Each Way number or the PDEW metric. He reminds everyone at this point that you need to be at the airport at least two hours early, no matter when you’re flying to.

Even with the focus on the cargo, there’s a push to get more direct flights from Memphis to other metro cities. This would help the need for some local fliers to make the drive 200 miles east on 40 to another unnamed airport that can get them to their ultimate destination more directly and easily.

Mr. Blue also detailed the imminent changes happening at the airport, specifically at the concourse, where fliers check-in for their flights and arrive in Memphis.  It hasn’t been updated since it was built in the 1960s and needs more modern additions, including a fire protection and sprinkler system. He walked audience members through renderings of what the new concourse hopes to look like, filled with more space for baggage claim, improved locations for escalators, and enhanced fiberglass windows. All of these changes are necessary to keep up with other Metro airports and will help Memphis’ bidding when adding more destinations to their offerings. Mr. Blue concluded his thorough presentation by answering questions from the audience, addressing the cargo vs. passenger dynamic at the airport, how grants will fund these concourse updates, the Memphis landing fees, and additional spaces in the parking garage.

Mark returned to the stage for a few brief announcements before introducing Barbara May, owner of Travel Leaders Collierville, to give some exciting information about the lavish cruise her company is graciously giving away to one lucky Chamber member at the end of the year. She presented various photos and facts about the Explora Cruise ship that will take the lucky winner to a destination of their choice from a list of options that include Dubai. Miami, and Alexandria, Egypt. The massive cruise liner has multiple restaurants and bars, workout areas, high-end retail stops, and gorgeous views. Mark and Barbara concluded the meeting by reminding attendees to sign up for the cruise before leaving. The winner will be drawn at the Chamber’s December monthly meeting and they must be present to win.