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Minority Business At The Airport Is Dismal; Officials Say More Opportunities In The Pipes
1/14/2015 3:39:05 PM

Paul Campbell
By Barney Blakeney

Last year the Charleston International Airport generated about $30 million in revenue. And four years ago it started a five-year, nearly $200 million redevelopment project to renovate the 29-year-old facility. Airport officials say minority business participation in the redevelopment project is admirable, but admit minority business participation in the airport’s ongoing revenue source is almost non-existent.

Of the millions of dollars in revenue generated by the airport, Black business participation is limited only to limousine and taxi service. Airport Executive Director Paul Campbell said of the 55 transportation vendors licensed to operate at the airport, the majority are Black owned.

Car rental vendors are the most lucrative at the airport generating almost two-thirds of the total revenue. The Charleston Aviation Authority which operates the county’s three airports has established a 6.6 percent minority business participation goal for that facet of its revenue. The goal consistently is unmet.

Campbell said while the airport’s authorities are constantly trying to involve the community and be conscious of the goal for minority participation, the fact that car rental companies are nationally administered makes their efforts more difficult. The airport authority has had more success with local procurement. Participation in that area is about 30 percent, he said.

Toward that effort, the airport is surveying the local community to identify available minority businesses with which to do business. They are reasonably successful at reaching out to those businesses, he said.

And he lauds the airport’s success in workforce diversity. According to a recent report, the airport is in compliance with federal hiring requirements. Of the airport’s 148 employees 41 or 2.7 percent are minorities and or about 60 percent are females. The airport also is in compliance with federal requirements among executive, midlevel managers and mechanical maintenance and grounds workers.

One airport authority board member who asked to not be named in this story said the airport’s minority business participation activities must go beyond participation in the construction redevelopment. While overall minority business participation in the effort is about 28 percent, Black business participation in the construction still is only about five percent.

“I think it’s important that people understand there now are people on the aviation authority board who want to take that to another level. We’ve asked staff how to go about increasing minority participation,” the member said. “We need to identify what are the business opportunities are. People should know some things are coming down the pipe.”

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