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Government & Politics

Moore orders do-over for lucrative BWI Airport concessions contract

A lucrative concessions contract at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport will be re-bid. Photo courtesy of BWI Marshall Airport.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) said Tuesday he is scrapping a controversial contract process to run concessions operations at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and has directed the Maryland Aviation Administration to solicit new bids for the lucrative deal. The forthcoming procurement solicitation cancels the solicitation and contract award recommendation that the agency made under the administration of former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) — which had resulted in a lawsuit against the state.

In a statement, Moore said he was looking to ensure a fairer, more competitive bidding process to operate the concessions — food, drink, retail and other hospitality services — at the busy state-owned airport.

“BWI Marshall is an economic driver for our state and our region,” the governor said. “The retail and concessions program is a key element to the growth and success of the airport, and my administration is committed to carefully crafting a new solicitation and a procurement process that encourages robust competition, fairness, and provisions that align with our administration’s values and short-term and long-term economic strategies.”

The aviation administration (MAA), a unit of the Maryland Department of Transportation that runs BWI Marshall, put out a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) last summer, seeking bids for a new concessions operator at the airport for the next two decades. The current contractor, Fraport, and its corporate predecessors, have run concessions at BWI for 18 years.

But the process quickly ran into criticism, after the MAA twice changed the RFP in ways that appeared to favor one company — New Market Development Joint Venture LLC, a politically-connected firm that was launched just months before the bidding began. One change, dealing with the level of experience needed to run concessions at BWI, clearly benefited New Market Development, because the company would not have qualified for the contract without it.

In November, MAA staff recommended awarding the contract to New Market Development, which is owned by Major Riddick, a former chief of staff to ex-Gov. Parris Glendening (D) and longtime fixture on the Maryland political and government scene.

The contract, estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars, was to be vetted and voted on by the state’s Board of Public Works.

But in December, the aviation administration sent a terse message to all bidders for the concessions deal, saying the contract process was being put on hold. Fraport sued the state at the same time, in an attempt to block the MAA from awarding the contract to New Market Development Joint Venture LLC, and have New Market disqualified from the bidding process.

In its statement Tuesday, the Moore administration described the concessions program as “a critical component of BWI Marshall Airport’s continued success, day-to-day operations, and passenger experience. The concessionaire manages the airport’s retail and food operations, amenities, and develops and designs public spaces.”

The company that runs concessions at BWI also subleases space to an array of subcontractors that operate restaurants and retail outlets. The concessions program covers over 194,000 square feet of space at the airport.

Fraport’s current contract to manage concessions at the airport ends on March 31. The Moore administration said in its statement that the MAA will submit a request to the Board of Public Works in March to enter into a month-to-month agreement with the concessionaire until a long-term contract is rebid and awarded.


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Moore orders do-over for lucrative BWI Airport concessions contract