By Naeisha Rose
As representatives from the Port Authority laid out their Vision Plan to bring Kennedy Airport into the 21st century at community outreach meetings in Far Rockaway and St. Albans, state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) focused on encouraging minority and women entrepreneurss to take advantage of the airfield’s $10 billion redevelopment.
“I implore people to get ready for what is about to happen in Queens and not let opportunity pass them by. Businesses cannot put the onus on just government alone. Owners have to take responsibility to participate where government has made a way for them,” Sanders said.
Sanders was referring to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s February announcement that up to 30 percent of state-funded contracts would go to minority and women-owned business enterprises.
“In New York, we know that our economy is strongest when everyone is empowered to participate, which is why we continue to work to increase access and opportunities to success for minority- and women-owned businesses to strengthen and diversify our economy,” said Cuomo.
The outreach meetings were held July 17 and July 18, and Sanders hopes that MWBEs will receive up to $3 billion in contracts for their firms from the JFK expansion.
To be MWBE-certified in New York, a minority or woman must own 51 percent of their business, have a good standing as a citizen, have operated his or her company a year prior to applying to the program, and have authorization to do business in the state, according nyc.gov.
JFK Airport is in one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the world, according to Sanders, who is on the Senate Task Force on MWBE and the mayor’s Advisory Council on MWBEs. Minorities make up more than 50 percent of the city’s population, and the senator believes the 30 percent procurement goal is possible if more MWBEs take advantage of government projects.
“Many such firms operating in New York may not be looking at government as an opportunity for diversifying their revenue source, but the Kennedy investment presents a unique opportunity. Work will last more than 10 years, creating regional job growth and new business ventures that will benefit generations to come,” said Sanders.
JFK Airport broke records in terms of international passenger traffic and overall passenger trips in 2017, according to Port Authority statistics, and generates $15 billion in wages.
Last year, international passengers increased 2 percent by 643,847 to 32.4 million at JFK, while total travelers at the airport went up 0.4 percent by 239,908 to 59.3 million, according to Port Authority.
Despite the uptick in travelers, JFK is ranked 59th out of the world’s top 100 airports and will reach capacity by 2020 in terms of how many air travelers it can accommodate if it does not make improvements, according to the Vision Plan, which the Governor’s Airport Advisory Panel wants to fix.
The panel consists of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and members of the the Port Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and others who believe the best path for JFK is to enhance older terminals, create newer ones and make them more interconnected; improve access and transportation to JFK; and leverage private capital and public/private partnerships to further enhance the airport.
A timeline for the $10 billion redevelopment of the airport has yet to be released by Cuomo or the Port Authority.
MWBEs that are in the construction, commodities and consulting industries could greatly benefit from the vision of the advisory panel.
In the last two years, the MWBEs that were utilized statewide accounted for 53 percent of construction jobs, 27 percent of service consultants, 15 percent of commodities and 5 percent of construction consultations, according to the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2016-2017.
Between 2016 and 2017, 27.2 percent of MWBEs were utilized, according to the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development.
“The effort to transform the airport for the 21st century is just about underway. Now is the time to get ready because when the shovels hit the dirt at groundbreaking, it will be too late,” said Sanders.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose