Experience is Key

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has requests for proposals (RFPs) out for concession work for the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics. DFW International is rebuilding four aging terminals. According to industry pundits, airport traffic is back to pre-recession levels and is expected to double in the next 20 years.

This means the airport construction market is on the verge of explosive growth as terminals across the country expand to accommodate the needs of the future. Airport concessions are a key growth area within this market.

Experience is key

As with any construction project, it’s important to have a general contractor with experience. When it comes to airports, however, experience can be the difference between success and failure.

From understanding security protocols to safely operating in high traffic areas, to efficiently build a variety of projects — modular kiosks, high-performance kitchens, luxury retail, and more — an airport-experienced general contractor comes prepared for nearly any contingency.

When an airport begins its building proposal process, it should ask contractors about specific experience, how they handle changing security requirements, how they manage potential scheduling roadblocks, and how they will ensure the project is completed according to the airport’s timetable.

Where to look

So how does one find a qualified and trusted airport-experienced general contractor? Start with airport leadership. Chances are they can provide a list of competent contacts that have successfully completed projects in the past. Talk to other airport concessionaires, too. Their first-hand experience with builders can provide insightful and unbiased feedback.

Second, reach out to connections and any network of associated professionals. If an architect has been chosen for a project, ask him or her for a referral with specific expertise or experience.

Security matters

Successfully navigating security is potentially the biggest challenge in any airport project. Passenger screening measures are at an all-time high, and continuously evolving. An experienced general contractor stays on top of these changes and is prepared to comply with adjusted protocols. For the concessionaire, this means no lost time or unexpected budget hits because crews can’t gain access.

Keep in mind that security processes differ from airport to airport. Some require the general contractor to obtain client-sponsored security badges with access for the duration of the project. Others sponsor badges through the marketplace, making them good for an entire year.

Still other airports have security badge protocols that require numerous trips and three to four weeks to complete. Again, experience pays off with a general contractor who’s aware of the requirements each facility demands and includes the time and costs needed in the initial proposal.

In any airport setting, as every traveller knows, even the smallest scheduling delay can cause a domino effect of postponements, cost increases, and missed deadlines, which can put a project in jeopardy.

Open for business

Nervous? Don’t be. For newcomers to the airport concessionaire world, the task is to simply educate oneself and prepare for a different building experience than what an airport might be currently accustomed to.

But here’s the thing — with the emergence of a global marketplace, and concepts like John Kasarda’s Aerotropolis taking hold in key urban centers, airport growth opportunities will continue.

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