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Port Continues to Advance Equitable Recovery

Commission votes to expand relief for restaurants, retail, and taxi cabs serving the airport
April 13, 2021

Port of Seattle Commissioners focused on equitable recovery initiatives at Tuesday’s Commission meeting, extending relief for airport businesses hit hard by the ongoing pandemic and receives an annual report documenting the Port’s progress to ensure equality in contracting opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses.

Diversity in contracting

As one of the region’s largest public builders, the Port of Seattle’s construction contracts create opportunities that provide a major source of business revenue for local firms. The Port’s second annual Diversity in Contracting report provides a transparent and timely assessment of efforts to ensure equality in contracting opportunities. The 2020 report revealed progress despite challenges from the pandemic and makes recommendations for taking larger strides.

Key findings include:

  • 325 women and minority-owned firms contracted with the Port, nearly tripling the number of WMBE businesses contracted by the Port in 2016. 
  • The Port invested over $75 million (10.9 percent of its total contracting dollars) with women and minority-owned firms.
  • 16 percent of non-construction contacting dollars ($33 million) went to women and minority-owned firms, beating the Port’s annual goal of 14.4 spending.
    • Given Washington State’s construction bidding laws and policies, in conjunction with the State’s anti-affirmative action clauses, make it more difficult to prioritize WMBE utilization on construction projects, the Report recommends:
    • Leveraging more alternative delivery methods
    • Evaluate chances for unbundling of projects and further breakdown of scopes of work. 
    • Expanded trainings, workshops, and better tie ins with PortGen
    • Continued partnerships with prime contractors, community and trade organizations.

As part of its outreach and technical assistance efforts the Port recently launched a new women and minority-owned business accelerator in partnership with Find Ventures. The Port’s first-ever PortGen Accelerator will accept applications for this intensive two-month business development program until May 15. Businesses accepted into this inaugural cohort will access mentorship and programs that help them pursue the Port’s contracting opportunities.

“The Port Commission has worked hard over the last several years to bring into the airport local, women and minority-owned businesses that reflect the Pacific Northwest culture. The loss of air passengers has been incredibly hard on them and we want to see them succeed,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Our equitable recovery strategy led us to focus first on those hardest hit industries and most vulnerable communities. We expand the whole economy by fixing economic inequities and helping women and minority-owned businesses connect to the recovery.”

“We appreciate the effort and consideration the Port of Seattle Commission has provided to better understand the difficulties our businesses have experienced during these challenging times,” said Kathy Casey, owner of Dish D’Lish, Rel’Lish Burger Lounge and Lucky Louie Fish Shack and co-founder of the SBAAC (Small Business Airport Action Committee). “These actions will continue to provide an opportunity for economic recovery and will be especially helpful for small, women, and minority businesses and our ability to provide the excellent customer services our travelers deserve as we see passenger traffic volumes return.”

Expanding COVID-19 relief

Airport dining and retail businesses, taxi drivers, and rental car businesses experienced steep and extended drops in business revenue when travel from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport declined by more than 60 percent last year. On Tuesday Commissioners authorized extended relief packages that reduce and delay charges that the airport is legally required to collect from qualified tenants operating on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport property.

  • Airport Dining and Retail, On-Airport Parking, and Rental Car concessionaire agreements will be amended to allow for on-going adjustment of the Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG) throughout the duration of the pandemic based on reduced passenger levels.
  • In addition, the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA Act), enacted on December 27, 2020, enabled the Port to provide relief to certain on-airport car rental, on-airport parking, and in-terminal airport concessions tenants.
  • Taxi/flat rate for-hire drivers are not eligible for direct relief from the CRRSA Act.  Instead, the Port has taken two steps:
    • Taxi/flat-rate for-hire operator deferred payment relief is extended an additional year through September 2022 with payments allowed to be spread out over a 15-month period, and the first payment not due until July 2021.
    • In addition, the Commission extended the two-year pilot program created in 2019 for an additional year to September 30, 2022 to assure stability in the airport operating conditions, avoid unnecessary disruption and allow for more time to recoup losses during the pandemic, and provide more time for the Port analyze the outcomes of the pilot program.

By taking these initiatives during such challenging times, the Port reaffirms its commitment to remaining a major economic engine for the region,said Executive Director Steve Metruck.

Progress towards creating equitable wages for flight kitchen workers

In addition to the Port’s own initiatives, this year the Commission supported recently passed legislation sponsored by Washington State Senator Karen Keiser and Representative Mia Gregerson to address a wage inequity for employees of Flight Kitchens who were omitted from the $15 minimum wage ordinance approved by the City of SeaTac in 2015. The legislation SB5385 clarifies that airports with an annual average of 20 million passenger enplanements may set a minimum labor standard for workers performing airline catering work.

Now that SB5385 has passed and is awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature, the Port Commission will be introducing a resolution on April 27th to begin the process needed to assure these predominantly minority workers are paid equitably,” said Commission President Fred Felleman.

Connecting to Recovery

In addition to the abovementioned efforts to spur economic recovery in response to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Port is seeking public engagement to suggest ways our 2022 budget can help the region rebound.

The Port of Seattle Commission invites public feedback on its ongoing strategy to connect our region to an equitable recovery.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption across our economy and society, the Port of Seattle, in collaboration with our business and community partners, is uniquely positioned to help connect our region to recovery.

Central to our efforts is building on our strategies to advance innovation, protect the environment, and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion so that the Port’s economic investments benefit all communities.

Members of the public can provide feedback to the Commission by responding to these questions:

  1. What are the biggest issues facing your community (community as defined by you)?
  2. What stands out as the most important thing that the Port should be doing to advance economic recovery?
  3. How can we continue to partner with you and leaders in your community to advance equitable recovery across the region?
  4. Commissioners will receive a public report on regional collaboration and public feedback at the beginning of the 2022 budget planning process.

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