Nearly 200 Black, Latino and Asian aviation professionals from across the United States touched down in Washington, DC, for the 2nd Annual Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) Economic Opportunity and Policy Forum, hosted by BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, March 20 – 22, 2022.  Forum attendees gathered at the Washington Marriott Metro Center in downtown, Washington, DC, to hear industry leaders, government officials and business representatives exchange ideas, share entrepreneurship best practices, and highlight economic prospects.

“AMAC is thrilled to welcome our members to our first in-person event since 2019,” said Eboni Wimbush, AMAC President and CEO as she introduced DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who brought greetings to the group while acknowledging the important role that airports play in the regional economy by supporting business and tourism travel.

The forum was two-fold in purpose. First, it brought business owners and people in the industry together to share available opportunities. We had decision-makers from several airports at the table, including: BWI; Philadelphia International; Richmond International; Raleigh–Durham International; Long Beach Airport; Jackson–Medgar Wiley Evers International; and Seattle-Tacoma. They detailed immediate and long-range plans for concession, professional services, marketing, supplies, and construction contracts. In addition, they provided updates on Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) program. 

Secondly, the forum offered insights on airports local and regional economic impacts, AMAC’s federal legislative agenda, and featured panel discussions with key Congressional and Administration leaders that included the Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Congressman Rick Larson, and Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia. District of Columbia’s Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), an avid supporter for economic equity for women and minorities and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure addressed the group in person. Maryland’s 7th District Congressman Kwesi Mfume, a Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Small Business and Chair of a Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure, offered compelling comments via Zoom from his office in the US Capitol.

Day one of the forum focused on economic opportunities with national and international airports within the aviation industry. Day two focused on AMAC’s legislative agenda, where attendees were able to engage with lawmakers and regulators to discuss the importance of the DBE/ACDBE programs.

Keynote speaker Shannetta R. Griffin, P.E., Associate Administrator of Airports, Federal Aviation Administration set the tone for the forum by discussing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Talking about how airports must implement them, the Biden/Harris goals for equity under BIL, and what that means, for AMAC members. 

“We were excited to have Shannetta Griffin as she leads a team of over 600 employees, with a budget of over $3.5 billion annually, but more importantly, she’s oversees the $25 billion being administered through BIL,” said Wimbush

Workshops for the two-day forum included: Reform, Strengthen and Modernize—A New Approach to Business: The COVID-19 pandemic forced almost every business, including federal agencies, to change its operation. The “new normal” demands thinking beyond numbers, focusing on economic development, and business growth so more people can achieve success and build wealth, workforce and business diversity. 

Networking Lunch—The Power of Speaking Out—Leveraging the Legislative Process for Business Success: Attendees learned why legislative advocacy is important to the people and businesses aligned with AMAC’s mission, how engagement in public policy assists in driving supplier and workforce diversity and inclusion efforts, and about AMAC’s legislative agenda and how to leverage our unified strength and influence to impact positive change for minorities and women in the aviation industry.

The Way Forward—Current and Future Trends: What’s happening on Capitol Hill and updates on the Administration’s initiatives.

National, Regional and Local Business and Employment Opportunities— Construction, Concessions, Professional Services and Contracting: Airport representatives from small, medium, and large airports shared business and employment opportunities for minorities, women, small contractors, and suppliers beyond the ACDBE/DBE program (e.g., PFC-funded projects, daily goods/services procurements), plus upcoming AEC, concession, and other non-federally funded contracts.

“Attendees also heard from the FAA on regulatory issues that affect concessionaires. AMAC principles discussed legislative priorities directly related to “moving the needle to impact [AMAC’s] mission around both the employment advancements of minorities and women in the [aerospace],” said Wimbush. 

“The forum provided a dialogue to help encourage full opportunities for minorities across airports and aviation,” said Ricky Smith, Executive Director/CEO, BWI Marshall Airport and Chair, AMAC Board of Directors. “AMAC is providing important leadership to help foster and grow these principles. We look forward to continuing to share information and insights with stakeholders from around the country at our Annual AMAC Airport Business Diversity Conference in Chicago this June 20-22, 2022.”

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Beverly Richards
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