Airports Council Announces Winners of the 2020 Inclusion Champion Awards

Sept. 15, 2020

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), the trade association representing commercial service airports in the United States and Canada, announced the recipients of the 2020 ACI-NA Inclusion Champion Awards. This year’s Inclusion Champion Award recipients are Charleston International Airport (CHS) Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and HMSHost Corporation.

“Empowering minority- and women-owned businesses is a part of the good work our airports engage in each year to increase diversity within the aviation industry,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “This year’s Inclusion Champion Award recipients are a strong showing of successful outreach and advocacy to promote business opportunities and develop a workforce that is reflective of the people we serve. We applaud this year’s winners and look forward to continuing this important work for many years to come.”

Large Hub Inclusion Champion: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)

BWI and the Maryland Aviation Administration have demonstrated strength in their commitment to maximizing local and minority business participation at the airport, underscoring its business diversity dedication and continuously evaluating procurements of the state’s Small Business Reserve Program to level the playing field for small businesses to compete. In 2017, BWI partnered with its concessions developer to establish LaunchPad. LaunchPad operators receive 12-month leases, custom retail merchandising units, and additional training, including sales and marketing support, to start up their small businesses. Since its start, the program has provided nine local small minority- and women-owned business opportunities to begin at BWI. 

"This honor confirms my pride in the many stellar professionals that hold BWI Marshall to be their employer of choice,” said Ricky Smith, executive director of BWI Marshall Airport. “I have always held the belief that this airport is supported by many of the most competent and dedicated professionals in the industry. This honor recognizes our commitment to maintaining a diverse team that is actively engaged in driving performance excellence. Thank you, ACI-NA, for bestowing this esteemed award on this organization. As we strive to ‘be better,’ we will pursue every effort to continue living up to the principles of this award."

BWI has also worked to expand its recruitment and inclusion efforts to increase its workforce diversity. Since 2015, women in executive management has increased 129% and racial/ethnic diversity has increased among executive and senior management 300% and 64%, respectively. Since 2015, the airport has also sponsored a Summer Youth Initiative to introduce underrepresented youth to the aviation industry and stimulate career interest, which has impacted 250 youth ages 10-13 from the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Department — exposing youth to different aspects of operating an airport.

 Medium Hub Inclusion Champion: Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) 

The Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) has dedicated itself to promoting the full participation of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBEs) and Woman and Minority-Owned Small Business Enterprises (W/MBEs) at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). LCPA hosted or co-sponsored more than 60 events in the past five years, reaching an audience of more than 12,000 small, women and minority-owned businesses. In the same timeframe, LCPA exceeded its DBE and ACDBE goals by an average of 10% each year. The RSW team also implemented an online certification, outreach and contract compliance system, which helped increase the number of certified businesses by 20% in the first year.

“I am so pleased that Southwest Florida International Airport has been recognized for its commitment to diversity in its business, workforce and outreach practices,” said Ben Siegel, CPA, C.M., acting executive director of the Lee County Port Authority. “Our team continues to work hard to bring positive solutions and proactive engagement of inclusion with the companies we do business with, our employees and the community we serve.” 

LCPA designed an Inclusions Program to improve workforce practices and develop and/or consider implementing strategies, such as utilizing gender-neutral language in performance management programs and job descriptions, initiating equal pay across the organization during the hiring process and include cross-departmental employees in the interviewing process. LCPA also developed several employee empowerment and educational programs, including a Lunch & Learn Employee Outreach and Education program, an organization strategic initiative that focuses on people as a priority and the ASPiRE program, to provide an opportunity for personal development and self-fulfillment within the workplace.

Small Hub Inclusion Champion: Charleston International Airport (CHS)

CHS has sought to level the playing field for minority- and women-owned businesses by offering them opportunities to conduct business within the airport. To that aim, in April 2018, CHS rolled out the Specialty Leasing Program — a kiosk program that gives smaller businesses an opportunity to operate their business in the airport while offering food and products that are “uniquely Charleston.” In January of 2020, CHS’s Board of Directors approved the creation of an ACDBE with the partnership of one of their concessionaires, Delaware North, to win an in-line space at CHS. For the first time, CHS has a minority-owned business operating out of an inline space.

“A diverse mix of businesses and entrepreneurs leads to success not only for CHS but for our community, state and nation as a whole,” said Airport Director & CEO J. Elliott Summey. “We are excited to welcome the addition of Cinnabon, under the ownership of Charleston native and business owner Ms. Shawnalea Garvin, to our airport family. The importance of minority-owned businesses to our nation’s economy cannot be overstated, and as a board and staff we are committed to an intentional approach that ensures equity and inclusion are core to our mission and extend to all levels of the organization.”

CHS also strives to cultivate a diverse workforce by reaching out to the community in which it serves and offering college students and recent graduates opportunities in the airport management profession. CHS piloted an internship program with South Carolina State University, a historically black college and university, in 2015. Through this partnership, CHS has introduced and recruited minority students into the aviation field.

Associate Inclusion Champion: HMSHost Corporation

With more than 120 ACDBE joint venture and sublease partners, who generated $500 million in revenue in 2019 in their portfolio, HMSHost is dedicated to ACDBE inclusion. In 2019 HMSHost continued investing a greater focus on ACDBE Business Capacity and Supplier Diversity, developing an informal mentor protégé program to help guide promising suppliers and entrepreneurs. Most recently, the ACDBE partnerships are being supported and guided through an even more complex airport landscape to achieve their goals.

“We are extremely honored to be recognized by ACI-NA with the Associate Inclusion Champion Award which showcases our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion throughout our business and employment practices,” said HMSHost President and CEO Steve Johnson. “This recognition comes at such an important time when it is imperative that we prioritize unity and diversity for the future growth and success of the industry. This award is dedicated to our ACDBE partners who are navigating through the most challenging times our industry has ever faced. Together we persevere.”

 The corporation also is focused on bringing more M/WBE general contractors into its portfolio. HMSHost played an instrumental role in helping Chicago’s Bowa Construction become one of the first 100% African American owned general contractors building concessions at O’Hare international Airport.

About ACI-NA

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) represents local, regional, and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada. ACI-NA member airports enplane more than 95 percent of the domestic and virtually all the international airline passenger and cargo traffic in North America. Approximately 380 aviation-related businesses are also members of ACI-NA, providing goods and services to airports. Collectively, U.S. airports employ more than 1.3 million people and account for $1.2 trillion in economic activity - or seven percent of the total U.S. workforce and eight percent of GDP. Canadian airports support 405,000 jobs and contribute C$35 billion to Canada's GDP. Learn more at