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Report: Clear Goal Needed for Briscoe

Question and answer session with airport consultants scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will meet with airport consultants Infrastructure Management Group Inc. (IMG) on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to discuss the results of a study commissioned by Gwinnett County regarding the future of Briscoe Field.

In a report released last month (see pdf), IMG made several recommendations to the county:

  1. Establish a clear goal for Briscoe Field. In the report, IMG noted, “It is apparent from our discussions with County staff and leaders, from press reports, and from the split vote to proceed even with this report that the County is not unified on a single direction for the Airport. In this environment, selecting and successfully negotiating with a private operator will be difficult. Public involvement, including providing time for citizen input, may initially slow the process but will lead to a higher likelihood of success.”
  2. Take time to understand the opportunity. IMG recommended a series of studies to “help the County to establish the business case for privatization and conduct legwork to help interested parties understand the investment required to establish commercial service at Briscoe Field.” The total cost of the recommended studies is $223,800.
  3. Market the opportunity. According to IMG, “privatizing an airport is a complex endeavor with a low rate of success. Unlike many other County procurements, there is a very limited pool of potentially-qualified firms, and the opportunity offered is highly unique. If the County wishes to maximize the number of bidders on Briscoe Field, it should consider marketing steps beyond the typical procurement process.” The consultants listed several potential marketing steps and noted such steps would require additional time and county resources.
  4. Develop the RFP carefully. On May 3, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted . In 2010, the county issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) from firms interested in submitting proposals to privatize the airport. American Airports Corporation, Gwinnett Airport, LLC and Propeller Investments submitted RFQs. The . According to IMG, “Whether the County proceeds with the 2010 process or begins anew, the quality and detail of the RFP will be critical to success.”
  5. De-link the commercial service and privatization debate. The IMG study noted that many do not see commercialization and privatization as two distinct issues. In their report, IMG advised, “The County may choose to pursue either or both options; however stakeholders should be educated that the two are separate choices. This will enable the County to make informed decisions about the privatization process.”

The IMG report also noted several other critical issues including:

  • Commercial service is likely to require significant investment to the airport. In particular, IMG noted the need for runway upgrades and investments for facilities needed to support commercial operations. The report states, “One respondent to the SOQ, , complementing Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL). The other two respondents contemplate no such major investment. This leads to a number of critical issues for the County.”
  • Investing in the Airport for commercial service is likely to require substantial public funding. According to IMG, “It is highly likely that the County would have to support such investment by assisting in leveraging federal and state grants, as well as potentially providing direct County investment into the airport.”
  • Only one airport has been privatized as part of the FAA program and that airport, Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., reverted to government operation after only seven years of private control.

The question and answer session will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners conference room, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville. The meeting is open to the public.

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