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Sugar Land airport gets $12 million FAA grant to improve taxiway

Posted on October 03, 2016 in

Sugar Land will receive more than $12.2 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its taxiway, a major part of airfield upgrades city and state officials view as the catalyst for economic development.

The Texas Transportation Commission – which doles out federal transportation money awarded in Texas – on Thursday approved the money. Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff singled out the Sugar Land project as the “poster child” for regional airport investment in the state.

“I hope we get to do more in the future,” Vandergriff said.

The money is 90 percent of the $13.6 million cost to upgrade the taxiway at the airport and develop a new master plan for the airport, which the city purchased in 1991.

The multi-million federal award is a rarity for a general use airport in Texas, officials said, because the grants typically fund smaller projects of $1 million or less.

Officials will use the money to install new lighting and markings along the taxiway and improve drainage at the airport. Construction will be done at night to minimize effects on airport operations.

Airport and city officials will use a small portion of the money, about $333,000, to update the airport’s master plan. Sugar Land last updated its airport master plan in 1995, and must keep planning current to receive federal dollars. The new master plan will lay out short-and-long-range plans for airport improvements.

The work builds upon a $2.8 million project last year to relocate a hangar at the airport to make way for a wider taxiway.

Sugar Land officials have focused on airport improvements as a way to attract company executives. Former Mayor James Thompson said both Fluor, an engineering company, and oilfield services giant Schlumberger have large presences in the city because of the ease of flying in and out.

Based on FAA data, use of the airport increased to almost 75,000 takeoffs and landings in 2014, but dropped in 2015 to less than 70,000 aircraft movements.

Despite the drop, city officials think demand at the airport will increase. For the upcoming Super Bowl, Thompson said officials expect about 350 private planes to descend on the airport for the week.

Blake Tartt III: “I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Without Ole Miss”

Posted on September 30, 2016 in

His focus is on being significant and, for him, being significant is giving back and helping others.

He is passionate about both his business and Ole Miss, and he believes his greatest achievement is being fortunate enough to give back to the places that have molded him into the man he is today.


Tartt is a fifth-generation Houstonian who made his first trip to the University of Mississippi in 1980.

“I had never been to Ole Miss, and I flew into Oxford directly from Memphis on a beautiful spring day for Sigma Chi Derby Days,” he said. “Long story short, I drove up Sorority Row and then saw The Grove and said, ‘I’m coming to Ole Miss, and I’m going to be a Sigma Chi,’ and I never left.”

“I’ve had a job since I was 10 years old, and there was never a time when I didn’t work,” he said.

Tartt began as a newspaper boy at age 10, became a manager at Baskin-Robbins at 15 and started selling cars at the local Chevrolet dealership at 17. The summer he graduated from high school, Tartt had an internship opportunity to sell real estate, sparking his interest in the field. His work experiences translated into one of his biggest opportunities, becoming the campus representative for Coors Brewing Co.

As a Coors representative, he marketed beer to Ole Miss students through giveaways and promotions. The idea for the Coors Silver Bullet was even founded at Ole Miss.

“Terrell Knight, a fraternity brother of mine, came up with the idea of the ‘silver bullet,’ because after he would run eight miles in the heat, he would need a silver bullet,” he said. “I asked Terrell permission to use the name in a summer marketing contest at training in Golden, Colorado. It won.”

His efforts translated into becoming the top college beer salesman in the nation, winning the marketing contest and, inevitably, getting a job in Golden.

While at Ole Miss, Tartt majored in marketing because at the time, integrated marketing communications (IMC) was not an option.

“If I could go back, I would major in IMC,” he said. “The quality of education that is produced at Ole Miss and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media is outstanding.”

Scott Fiene, a professor at the Meek School, said Tartt is deeply involved with the IMC program and Ole Miss.

“He is an IMC guy to the core,” Fiene said, “and that applies to his Houston real estate firm, New Regional Planning.”

IMC focuses on the experiences incorporated into all aspects of business, such as marketing, advertising and public relations.

“Tartt would have succeeded exponentially in our program,” Fiene said.

Tartt’s undergraduate experience was transformed when he had an opportunity to get to know and spend time with history professor David Sansing, now professor emeritus.

“He was a big inspiration and taught me as much about the history of Mississippi as diversity and race relations,” Tartt said.

“Blake was one of my all-time favorite students,” Sansing said. “He had such a lively interest in everything and was one of the few students I would often see outside of the classroom.”

Their friendship is still of great importance to Tartt. It has become so much of an influence on him that he attributes much of his passion and love for Ole Miss and Oxford to Sansing’s influence.

“I am inspired to give back to the school and town and, in fact, the new shopping center I’m building will be called ‘The Sansing at Oxford Commons’ after my friend, mentor and former professor,” he said.

Linda Spargo, special projects coordinator and academic adviser, attests to how much Tartt has given back.

“Blake has been very involved with recruiting students and with job placement for students. He has hired students to work in his businesses in Oxford and Houston, and he has expressed to me how impressed he is with the work ethic, dependability and creativity of our students.

“He has created a niche that benefits the university and our students by providing real-life experiences in the work place, lively discussions and meaningful business practices for our students,” Spargo said.

Through New Regional Planning, Tartt has made a name for himself by investing
in developments and real estate. Beginning in Houston and, in recent years, expanding to Oxford, he has developed properties that house a variety of retail and office spaces.

“We live in the fastest economy ever, and if you’re not willing to change and adapt, you will fail,” Tartt said.

He said owning a company and expanding his business results in new challenges every day. “I don’t ever look in the rearview mirror, and I make decisions very fast. It’s hard on the people that work with me,” Tartt said.

As Tartt explained his business in greater detail, he revealed one of the keys to his success: hiring individuals from the millennial generation and taking advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

“I’ve learned in the last five years that hiring younger people and putting them in positions of ownership has resulted in the most progress,” he said.

Tartt not only has learned to adapt with the environment, but also to embrace it to better his business. He said the most important aspect of running a successful business is to not expect perfection.

“You’re doing well if 20 percent of your work is mistakes, because no one is perfect and that means a majority of your work is succeeding,” he said.

Although Tartt is continuing to push his developments in Houston, he has begun to expand his business to Oxford, and with much success.

“Oxford is a culturally sound and an economically viable city, and it is a real, natural growth point for what I am trying to do as I expand out of Houston,” he said.

Currently, Tartt owns multiple properties in the city of Oxford, both retail and office space. In addition to developing The Sansing shopping center, he has invested in PureRyde Cycling and Pilates.

Tartt credits the University of Mississippi.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without Ole Miss,” Tartt said.

“I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life, and I attribute much of that to the experience I had while at the University of Mississippi.”


Lindsey Andrews is a 2016 Meek School graduate from Collinsville, Illinois.

The Meek School Magazine is a collaborative effort of journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications students with the faculty of Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Every week, for the next few weeks, HottyToddy.com will feature an article from Meek Magazine, Issue 4 (2016-2017).

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