Atlanta rushing airport retail revamps? Some seeking contracts have concerns

3:56 p.m Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 Business
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is launching a major revamp of the shops in its domestic terminal and concourses. AJC file photo

More than 100 people interested in contracts for shops at Hartsfield-Jackson International gathered Thursday to learn about the airport’s plan to revamp retail locations, with some raising concerns that the city is rushing the contracting process as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s term nears its end.

The airport has more than 80 retail spots available around the domestic terminal and concourses.

“This is a massive procurement,” said Mano Smith, procurement officer for the city, which owns and manages the airport. “We want as much competition as possible.”

But it was also evident at Thursday’s meeting that concerns about the politics of airport contracts are intensifying.

Although a number of airport contracts have gone through months-long or even years-long delays recently, officials say they aim for a “very aggressive” schedule to award the contracts in October and execute leases in December — just before Reed’s term ends in January 2018.

Concerns about the schedule came up during a question-and-answer session, when some concessionaires said they need more time to prepare proposals, and raised questions about a new regime coming into City Hall that could introduce political uncertainty into the airport contracts.

Smith said the city would consider extending the deadline, which is currently Sept. 6. But “the further we push it out, the less likely it will be awarded during this administration,” he said. “Just keep that in mind.”

The locations are split up among 10 different contract packages, with the number of locations in each package varying from two to 22 in a single contract. The contracts are for seven years with a potential three-year renewal.

Retail locations at the airport last year brought in $153 million in revenue, not including duty free shops, according to the airport’s year-end concessions report. That was up 5.8 percent from the prior year.

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