Maryland board extends BWI vendor contract after Moore orders new procurement process

The new governor had ordered the Maryland Aviation Administration to start over after a decision last year to name a new vendor sparked controversy and a lawsuit

Published on: March 01, 2023 4:59 PM EST|Updated on: March 02, 2023 8:06 AM EST

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 22:  Passengers walk through a terminal at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) on December 22, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.
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ANNAPOLIS — The Board of Public Works agreed Wednesday to extend a contract with a company that has run concessions at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport since 2004 while officials decide whether to continue using the company or select a new vendor.

Fraport Maryland, the current contractor, will maintain the right to lease, develop and manage food services, retail shops and service concessions at BWI. Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, rescinded a contract with a new vendor recently signed by his Republican predecessor, Gov. Larry Hogan.

The Maryland Aviation Administration, a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation, will ensure the continuity of concession services at BWI. This will allow the needs of airport passengers to be met and create business opportunities for small and diverse businesses throughout Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, according to the BPW.

Fraport Maryland has been with BWI since 2004, seeing more than 27 million passengers a year. It manages more than 120,000 square feet of airport concession space.

In November, the MAA chose New Market Development to head the airport’s concession operations. The Landover-based firm did not receive final approval before Moore took office earlier this year. The founder and managing partner of New Market Development is Major F. Riddick Jr., who was chief of staff to Democrat Parris Glendening when he was governor. The selection was controversial because of the political connection and because it came at the end of Hogan’s term.

Fraport sued the MAA over the decision, and Moore last month directed the agency to start over.

“BWI Marshall is an economic driver for our state and our region,” Moore said in a statement last week. “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.”

Fraport agreed to drop the lawsuit in light of the governor’s move, according to The Baltimore Sun, with the company’s CEO saying it looked forward to participating in a “fair, competitive and robust procurement process that aligns with the Moore administration’s priorities.”

The modification approved by BPW on Wednesday extends the contract, which is set to expire at the end of March, to a month-to-month basis, with the right to terminate with 60 days prior written notice.

“The retail and concessions program at the airport — it is going to be a very key element to the growth and success of the airport,” Moore said at the BPW meeting. This is a “critical part to Maryland’s growth.”

BWI is the busiest airport in the Washington metropolitan area, handling more than 9 million passengers. BWI serves more than 51,000 passengers a day, and 36 airlines provide domestic, international, commuter, charter and cargo flights out of the airport.

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The services provided in the airport are a critical matter that will benefit thousands of passengers who travel through BWI, Comptroller Brooke Lierman said at the meeting. The BPW is “thrilled” to be partnering together, said Lierman, to improve better wages and conditions for workers in these concessions.

“For the past eight years, they’ve been dealing with the frustration with … reports, refusal to work with workers who want to be union and to have labor peace at the airport,” Lierman said.

Treasurer Dereck Davis asked during the meeting about 26 current leases that are up at the end of this month, and how those businesses feel about the new month-to-month lease. He suggested that the state use a lease that would provide those businesses with more certainty.

To answer this, MAA Executive Director and CEO Ricky Smith said that they work very closely with their subtenants: “We went through extensive contract modifications to support themselves.”

Smith said he is confident enough in the administration’s support for them and doesn’t see them vacating.

BPW is made up of three members: Moore, Treasurer Davis and Comptroller Lierman. Their job is to oversee all state spending.

Dorothy Hood is reporter for Capital News Service, a nonprofit, student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.