News and notes from Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson hikes disadvantaged business contracting goal

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is increasing its disadvantaged business contracting goal for concessions to 41 percent, one of the highest percentages in the country.

But Atlanta's airport doesn't have the nation's highest goal for concessions disadvantaged business contracting. That title belongs to Bismarck, N.D.'s tiny airport.

The Atlanta airport, where former Mayor Maynard Jackson pioneered minority participation requirements for airport contracts, previously had a goal of 36 percent participation by airport concession disadvantaged business enterprises, or ACDBEs.

The goal is revised every few years according to Federal Aviation Administration requirements, and the world's busiest airport's goal was recently increased based on the availability of ACDBE firms and past ACDBE participation in airport contracts. It applies to concessions other than car rental contracts for fiscal years 2015 to 2017.

"It speaks to the ability to have ACDBEs involved in concessions," said Yvette Hawkins at a recent meeting for companies interested in new concessions contracts at the airport.



Although the new overall goal is 41 percent, minority participation varies depending on the contract, and the airport and concessionaires are supposed to show good faith efforts to reach the goal.

The Atlanta airport has run into legal challenges over certification of ACDBE firms in the past.

The higher ACDBE participation goal comes as Hartsfield-Jackson contracts out a batch of restaurant locations, including spots on Concourses A and B and a new food court for Concourse C. It will also soon start a contracting process for restaurants on Concourse E, and in the next couple of years plans to conduct a massive contracting process for retail shops at the airport.

Among the airports with higher ACDBE goals than Atlanta, Bismarck has the highest, recently adjusted to 70 percent. Rogue Valley International in Jackson County, Ore. has a goal of 66.5 percent. Baltimore/Washington International, a large airport, has a goal of about 43 percent, while Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville, N.C. has a goal of 41.8 percent, according to FAA figures.

Officials at the Bismarck Airport were amused to hear they hold the title for the highest ACDBE participation goal.

What's behind the high figure in a city where Census figures show the population is more than 90 percent white?

"It just so happens we have been able to attract a woman-owned business.... She's doing well," said Bismarck Airport assistant airport director Timothy Thorsen. "And so this woman-owned business, because it's the biggest single concession by gross sales in our terminal, it allows us to set a higher goal."

According to federal code on the ACDBE requirements, the definition of "socially and economically disadvantaged individual" includes "Black Americans... Hispanic Americans... Native Americans... Asian-Pacific Americans... Subcontinent Asian Americans... women" and others determined to be socially and economically disadvantaged.

In the Bismarck Airport's small terminal, the woman-owned Fly 'N Buy Café and Gift Shop is the main concession, aside from a small coffee kiosk and soda and candy vending machines.

Thorsen said the Bismarck Airport's actual rate of ACDBE participation varies depending on the volume of sales of the Fly 'N Buy Café and Gift Shop relative to other concessions.

Officials with the city of Atlanta's Office of Contract Compliance often cite the mission of their equal business opportunity program: "to mitigate the effects of past and present discrimination" against woman and minority businesses.

In Bismarck, Thorsen said, "It is a requirement for airports our size and airports around the nation to foster disadvantaged enterprise. It's one of our requirements and we do it."

Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise participation goals of the nation's busiest airports

Atlanta - 41 percent

Los Angeles International - 23.2 percent

Chicago O'Hare - 32 percent

Dallas/Ft. Worth - 33.9 percent

Denver - 33 percent

New York JFK - 17 percent

San Francisco - 8 percent

Charlotte - 19 percent

Las Vegas - 17.8 percent*

Phoenix - 24.8 percent

Source: Federal Aviation Administration for FY 2015.

*FY 2014 goal. Newest goal methodology under review.


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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.