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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

BWI Airport Networking Event Offers Information, Airport Contracting Opportunities for Minority Businesses

More than 20 years ago, Ricky Smith, Sr.—BWI Airport’s former head of the airport’s minority business development program— teamed up with an event planning consultant named Carla Nelson (Chambers). The collaboration led to the creation of the concept for the annual Synergy BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport business networking event. It grew into a successful resource for minority businesses.

Smith, Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA), explained that when government agencies typically hold an outreach event, state agency exhibitors place business owners in an interest file while waiting for procurement opportunities to arise. When they do, information is sent to individuals who are on mailout lists.

“That doesn’t do a lot for a small, minority-owned firm that’s trying to get business in the short term,” Smith said.

Conversely, the Synergy BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport event offers proactive options. It “provides a venue for small, local and minority businesses to acquire procurement information, with the goal of increasing their participation in the airport’s many contracting opportunities,” according to a press release.

BWI Airport will host its annual Synergy business networking event on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. It will be held at Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland, located at 7002 Arundel Mills Circle in Hanover, Maryland from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Smith explained that the free Synergy event differs from typical outreach events. It offers a more immediate return on investment.

“Synergy is a collaboration between the Maryland Aviation Administration and our tenant and business partners at the airport,” Smith said. “Instead of having state agencies exhibit, we have our business partners exhibit.”

He specifically mentioned that food and retail partners, professional services partners, and airline partners are included.

“The importance there is that they can actually negotiate opportunities on the spot,” Smith said. “A private business has the flexibility to negotiate opportunities, and in some cases, negotiate contracts on the spot. And so, the small minority owned firm doesn’t have to wait for a long period of time. That’s the genesis behind Synergy.”

Smith also mentioned that BWI Airport has a $1.6 billion capital program over the next six years. The operating budget is almost $300 million a year.

“That’s a lot of money being spent, and so that presents opportunities for minority-owned firms. And then our airport partners are also spending money,” Smith said, mentioning that it is hard to list all the categories. “The airport is like a little city. We spend money on almost everything from construction to public safety units. We have our own fire department, police force, cleaning services, planning and engineering services.”

Additionally, the airport partners spend “enormous amounts of money on goods and services,” according to Smith.

Attendees can learn about business opportunities at BWI Airport and Martin State Airports. Networking; information about how to submit a winning government bid; a session about growing your business during and after COVID; a chance to hear leadership presentations; a speed lending opportunity; learning about MBE/ DBE/ACDBE certification; and other featured periods will be available.

Smith and others will provide remarks. A portion of highlights include the opportunity to learn about upcoming opportunities at BWI Airport. Jason Green is the co-founder of SkillSmart. Smith added that he is a local author, researcher, and former member of President Barack Obama’s administration who will provide a keynote address at the free Synergy event.

Smith reminded that the airport is a mysterious place to many people who do not think about business at an airport. Synergy breaks down the mystique. According to Smith, BWI Airport is rebounding since the pandemic began quicker than anticipated. Surpassing pre-pandemic travel levels are expected to be reached later this year or early next year. Peak travel periods surpassing 2019 levels have been reached several times.

When millions of people pass through the airport on a regular basis, passengers spend money on food and in gift shops. The airport needs to ensure that services are available to them. These are some of the reasons why having an opportunity to network with exhibitors and meet other individuals could be impactful to attendees.

“You never know who might be a good business partner for you, so the networking opportunity is always a hit,” Smith said.

Registration is strongly encouraged. More information about the Synergy BWI 2022 Conference is available via synergybwi.com.

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