Message from ACI-NA President Greg Principato; Global Airport Cities Conference and ACI-NA's Airport Financing Campaign

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on ACI-NA’s Airport Financing Campaign, which I discussed in my speech at the Global Airport Cities Conferencein Denver last month.  I felt it was an appropriate place to raise the issue given that the airport cities concept is all about recognizing the power of the airport economic engine.

My main message was that the current federal aviation funding system is out of date and it is holding airports back.  Exhibit A is the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill which not only keeps the lid on airports, but also reduces federal support for infrastructure investment without providing recourse to airports and their communities to take their growth plans into their own hands. This is particularly pressing given that we now live in a global economy where businesses, manufactures and employers can choose to place their operations nearly anywhere they choose.  Our competitors know that modern transportation infrastructure can help attract and retain business while decaying infrastructure can just as easily repel it.  Unfortunately, we as a nation are on the later course.

That is why the ACI-NA Board, at our Summer Board Meeting last year, agreed to move forward with an Airport Financing Campaign.  Over the next three years, we are prepared to work with the entire aviation community and others to construct a new modern system to build and upgrade infrastructure.  A system that gives airports and their communities the ability they need to invest in modern infrastructure, a system that permits our air transportation system and the companies within it to flourish, and a system that positions our nation as a key linchpin in the global economy throughout the 21st century and beyond.

Mark Reis, Chairman of the US Government Affairs Committee, is spearheading our campaign efforts with the assistance of our government affairs staff and the public relations firm, Fleishman Hillard.  We kicked the campaign off with the release, in February, of our Airport Economic Impact Study, the first done in over a decade which received strong press attention.   We have been sharing the study and our plan for the campaign with our members through webinars, at committee meetings and at conferences (Commissioners, Legal, Finance, Legislative Affairs).  Executive VP Debby McElroy has shared our plans with the California Airports Council at their quarterly meeting earlier this year and is addressing the Mississippi Airports Council this week at their meeting in Biloxi.  She is also scheduled to address the Texas Commercial Airports Association in June.   I will be sharing our message with the New York, West Virginia and Florida airport groups.

We need to convince Congress that the federal funding program for airports is broken and needs to be replaced.  In order to do that, we need to engage, educate and enlist the business leaders, unions, economic development groups and elected officials at the local and state level in our fight.  That is why we are using 2012 to test messaging and tactics in order to strengthen our grass roots efforts with the next Congress.  To do this we have picked ten airports, referred to as the Directors Action Committee (DAC), along with two states, to serve as test pilots.   The airports were picked for the election year politics in their states/districts and/or specific airport issues/challenges that make them strong candidates to serve as the testing ground for developing our grass roots messaging and strategy through the end of 2012. The results of the DAC will allow us to provide all our airports with tried and tested messages that work as we move into the 2013-2014 phase of the campaign.  Click here for an overview of the campaign between now and 2015. 

We introduced the campaign’s website, http://airportsforthefuture.org/, in March during the joint Legislative Conference, and will be introducing extensive updates in mid-June.  The website will host messaging content, which will be password protected,  for directors, commissioners and our world business and associates that can be used for speaking to your local chamber, economic development group or your local legislators.  I look forward to sharing these with you after the Summer Board meeting and hearing your ideas.

We have done a great deal in the short time since the Board’s decision, but this is just the beginning.  Too few in Congress understand the full force of the airport economic engine, but with your help, they will.  Too few understand that current policy holds our airports and our communities back from taking full advantage of that engine and with your help we will mobilize them.  Too few realize this is a global competition and America is in danger of falling behind:  with your help we will bring this message to decision makers and opinion leaders everywhere.

Please feel free to call me (202-293-4546) or email me (gprincipato@aci-na.org) with any questions or ideas about the campaign.