By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Governor Wes Moore has instructed the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) to conduct a new procurement process to determine who will hold the contract for concessions offered at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI).
The directive comes after the MAA recommended New Market Development, a local, Black-founded development firm, for the contract last November.
Despite the recommendation, the procurement process was halted in December due to legal concerns from the Office of Attorney General and claims from bidders that the process was rigged to favor New Market Development, which was created by former Chief Administrative Officer for Prince George’s County, Major Riddick.
In light of the new procurement solicitation, New Market Development’s contract recommendation has been canceled.
“BWI Marshall is an economic driver for our state and our region,” said Moore in a statement. “The retail and concessions program is a key element to the growth and success of the airport, and my administration is committed to carefully crafting a new solicitation and a procurement process that encourages robust competition, fairness and provisions that align with our administration’s values and short-term and long-term economic strategies.”
Controversy surrounding the BWI Airport concessions contract emerged when the request for proposal (RFP) was amended two times during the bidding process.
Previously, the MAA required bidders to be in business for at least seven years before a contract award, but it changed the requirement to allow companies operated by executives who have been in the concessionaire industry for seven years to compete for the contract.
Without this provision, New Market Development, which was founded in 2021, would not have been able to participate in the procurement process.
The MAA also created an amendment that required competing contractors to present their minority subcontractors before submitting their RFPs, which has not been done in the past.
Prince George’s County Council at-large member Mel Franklin, who has known Riddick for more than 20 years, said he was disappointed by Moore’s decision to redo the procurement for the BWI Airport concessions program.
“I’m hopeful that Governor Moore’s emphasis on equity and inclusion will mean that there will be a process whereby minority-owned firms that don’t have the long track record of their majority counterparts will have an opportunity to successfully win this procurement,” said Franklin.
“I hope that the requirements around the competition are similar to those under which New Market Development was successful the first time. I’m very concerned about changing the process in the middle of the game. If it’s a process that’s significantly different from the one that New Market Development faced, it would be changing the rules near the end of the game, and I think that would be unfortunate.”
Franklin said he hopes that New Market Development will compete again for the contract, but if the MAA forgoes the new amendment that previously created a pathway for New Market Development, the company won’t have a chance.
“We are disappointed in the administration’s decision to cancel the RFP to develop and manage the BWI Marshall concessions program and will evaluate our options. We believe this controversy generated by one of the non-selected bidders was wholly without basis,” said New Market Development in a statement. “This is an example of how large corporations box out smaller, minority-owned firms.”
“They use their lobbyists and legal resources to outspend the smaller company looking for a fair opportunity to compete,” continued the New Market Development statement. “It is discouraging to see this happen in the great state of Maryland, where leading on minority contracting is a priority.”
The current contract, owned by Fraport Maryland, will expire at the end of March. The MAA plans to allow Fraport Maryland to operate on a temporary month-to-month agreement that leaves the company in control of BWI Airport concessions until a new procurement process is conducted.
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