When people think of airports, it’s probably not small businesses that come to mind first. But as Airport Minority Advisory Council boardmember Valerie Churchwell points out, small businesses play an important role in the aviation industry.
“Most people just think airlines when they think of airports but there are many, many more opportunities to be, suppliers, vendors, service providers, construction folks, but there are opportunities across the gambit to work at the different airports and aviation industries across the world.”
The Airport Minority Advisory Council, or AMAC, promotes the inclusion of minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged companies in airport contracting.
One small business owner, Jeramie Rittiluechai, says his minority status and connection to AMAC helped him get his business going.
Rittiluechai is half-Thai and owns an architecture company based in Dallas.
“I just kept going into these roadblocks and roadblocks, and going after something that does require that minority status, that gave me an opportunity — not necessarily an edge — but an opportunity to do the work and once I was able to do that I was able to prove that I could do the work, just like anyone else.”
Today, Rittiluechai’s company has 15 projects at four different airports, including Houston Intercontinental.
One speaker at the AMAC conference today was Bob Montgomery, vice president of airport affairs for Southwest Airlines. He says diversity is important for Southwest not only to meet quotas but because it’s beneficial for the company.
“I think that it makes southwest airlines strong to partner with minority firms. It gives us insights that we would not have thought of. It reflects who our employees are and who our customers are and I think it helps us to grow a better nation.”
The Airports Economic Opportunity and Policy Forum continues through Tuesday at the Hilton Americas downtown.