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Flying High with Supplier Diversity

Angel Harmon

It is known that diverse suppliers bring a distinctive level of flexibility, innovation and agility to the forefront of business. And with continuous efforts to increase opportunities for disadvantaged business enterprises and local small businesses, alike, the airport authorities across the U.S. have decided to ‘level up’ on outreach efforts with Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ACDBEs). 

Being challenged by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase ACDBE participation, Raymond Christy, airport senior planner, disadvantaged business enterprise coordinator, Salt Lake City Department of Airports, realized that something had to be done. He and nine other airport administrative leaders sat down to discuss existing issues and concerns, and devised a way to increase participation at the local level between small businesses and car rental companies. 

“We talked to the rental car companies and we gained their support,” said Christy. “…and the big three, Avis Budget Group, Enterprise Holdings, and Hertz, sent out letters to the representatives [of the] participating airports.” Along with the big three, Fox Rent A Car, Advantage / EZ, Sixt and Silvercar also participated.

On April 30, airports and car rental companies partnered to host a professional, multi-state supplire diversity outreach event hosted by participating airport authorities throughout the country to connect small and disadvantaged businesses with airport car rental concessionaires, where company representatives met one-on-one, sharing resources and details on purchasing opportunities and processes. 

Out of 40 airport authorities, 29 participated in this nationwide collaborative. There were several airports, that were fortunate to have their CEOs present, including Chicago whose Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee opened with a welcome speech. The program is committed to valuing differences and nurturing a community of diversity among businesses.

“This event in my mind, produced, even exceeded our intention, which is paramount, [in] providing maximum opportunities to certified airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprises,” said Lynn Boccio, vice president, Strategic Business & Diversity Relations, Avis Budget Group. 

“The high level of proactive participation came from the president of the Americas for Avis Budget Group,” said Christy. With a high level of commitment on the rental car side, they were able to gather partners like the Airport Minority Advisory Council that assisted in making the event a success. 

The goal is not only for the ACDBEs to do business the airports, but so that they have equal opportunity to receive and participate in state-assisted contracts. Goods and services offered at these networking events include asset recovery, legal, motor oil and gasoline companies, ship repair, security, janitorial, office supplies, and more. 

“I had such a wide array of folks attending from so many different disciplines,” said Christy. “It blew my mind because I thought that there was this very narrow list [of opportunities]. No, not the case at all.” 

The airport authorities ascertain that businesses do not have to be certified to attend, as assistance can be provided and they welcome companies of all types and sizes to compete for their business. In Salt Lake City, Christy arranged for a local community business center to be available to help small businesses needing certifications resources – as a free service. “I know of two vendors that were not certified, left with appointments the next day to meet and do a walk through, so they can provide a quote to the rental car companies,” he said. 

Boccio believes that this nationwide event was a wakeup call for both sides, the rental car companies and the airports, on what the opportunity actually is and what resources they can utilize at the local level to accomplish goals. She states,“There was some clarity on how local airports can now work with firms that they did not know that they could…those relationships definitely were strengthened.” 

One day isn’t enough to resolve most of the authority’s challenges, as many issues continue to surround the complex program to ensure that minorities and women have adequate opportunities to operate their businesses at airports. However, Boccio ascertains that there was a spirit of cooperation among the airports to make this event a success.

“I feel that now on a daily basis, far, far past this event, that relationship will continue to proceed to the betterment of all minority and women-owned businesses,” she said.

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