Myron Jackson's Airport Turbulence

Myron Jackson's Airport Turbulence
Myron Jackson leads The Design Group from its offices high above downtown Little Rock in the Regions Center. (Kyle Massey)

Little Rock ad executive Myron Jackson feels that he’s in a bad light, no doubt because a front-page piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette March 5 put him there. 

The piece said Jackson, CEO of The Design Group in Little Rock, reached out to a contender for the Little Rock airport’s advertising concession seeking a partnership and, months later, applied for a spot on the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission.

The implication was that Jackson’s close relationship with Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. posed the specter of influence-peddling when he unsuccessfully sought a relationship with the firm that ultimately landed the airport ad contract, Departure Media of Charleston, South Carolina.

Jackson sees the dustup as an attempt to cloud his reputation and prevent a Black majority on the Airport Commission.

The Design Group had worked with the previous airport ad concessionaire, Clear Channel Airports, and Jackson’s appeal to Departure officials indicated that the new vendor would benefit from having The Design Group on board.

Jackson told Whispers last week that he did nothing wrong.

“I was a businessman who was simply trying to facilitate a new business relationship that I thought would be beneficial to the airport,” he said. “I have been very successful in my 10 years as a partner in helping grow the advertising concession inventory, and it’s unfortunate that there appears to be some political maneuvering going on” in an attempt to undermine Mayor Scott.

A new Senate bill involving Airport Commission appointments was introduced in the days after the Democrat-Gazette piece appeared. Filed Tuesday by Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, Senate Bill 379 would require commissions serving any municipal airport among the nation’s busiest 125 airports to have two commissioners with experience in aviation, up from one, and would add a wrinkle to the appointment process. The Little Rock airport is in the top 125 category.

Little Rock airport commissioners are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by a three-fourths vote of the city Board of Directors. That would remain the same under SB379, but it calls for the governor to appoint a commissioner to any seat that has remained unfilled for more than 45 days. The seat Jackson is seeking has been open since the first of the year, according to airport spokesman Shane Carter. That was 67 days as this issue of Arkansas Business went to press on Thursday. That seat was previously held by Mark Camp, a licensed pilot.

Phone calls seeking comment from Senator Johnson went to a number not accepting messages.

Jackson told Whispers he thinks one goal of the recent publicity is to undermine any “attempt to make a historic appointment in the life of the airport, having a commission with a majority African-American makeup, and I think that’s grossly apparent when you consider Senate Bill 379.”