Sky Harbor Airport Ranks No. 1 For Small-Business Growth

July 30, 2014

(Al Macias - KJZZ)
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was ranked first in the nation for small business growth in fiscal year 2012, according to new research by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Sky Harbor signed contracts and lease agreements that year with 14 small businesses, mostly local food and beverage operators, the study said.

That was the largest increase among the nation's 64 biggest airports studied by the DOT, with Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in second place with 10 new companies. In total, the 64 airports added 83 total small businesses during that year.

The new 83 businesses are owned and operated by people who the federal government considers to be socially or economically disadvantaged, such as women and minorities. Those new firms represented only 5.3 percent of the total 1,600 disadvantaged companies that were doing business with major airports that year.

Airports such as Sky Harbor are required to provide programs and opportunities for disadvantaged companies in order to get their portion of the $3 billion in grant money that the Federal Aviation Administration doles out each year for various airport projects.

At Sky Harbor, the growth in small business largely stems from a major overhaul the airport did of concession contracts at Terminal 4, by far the largest and busiest terminal, in 2011 and 2012. Small businesses also have access to a $4 million financing program through the city of Phoenix to help pay for various expenses related to operating at the airport. The DOT study said four small companies have already utilized the city's program, two of which did so in fiscal 2012.

As a result, Sky Harbor's food and beverage-related income has seen some notable increases. According to Sky Harbor's fiscal 2013 annual report, food and drink profits rose by almost 21 percent from the previous fiscal year to $19.1 million.