If St. Louis moves forward with plans to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport, local officials will need to make a concerted effort to keep the public informed along the way.
That’s according to Lois Scott, former chief financial officer for the city of Chicago who now owns her own consulting firm. Scott oversaw unsuccessful privatization efforts for Chicago’s Midway International Airport in 2013.
As detailed in a recent article about airport privatization, Scott said providing clarity to the public about what you’re trying to accomplish for the city is key.
“I highly recommend transparency,” she said. “We put every document online and put them online immediately — not a week delay. That way the public didn’t have to wonder whether what we were doing was right. They had viewing rights.”
Scott said Chicago officials also created a traveler’s bill of rights before the process started in earnest.
“Things we felt the traveling public deserved from the airport system and what they could be assured of no matter who we might retain as a private operator,” she said. “The document included safety, first and foremost, but also things like efficient parking rates, clean facilities, different pricing points for food and beverage.”
Of the 10 airports that have applied for privatization, only two have been approved: Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. Today, just Luís Muñoz Marín remains privatized under Aerostar Airport Holdings, a subsidiary of California-based alternative investment management firm Oaktree Capital.
A Congressional Research Service report showed that more airports don’t apply for the APPP designation because the transfer process is too time consuming and airports already have access to adequate funding through federal grants.
St. Louis officials say privatizing could bring in an influx of cash for the city. The city could also eliminate its airport debt as part of the deal, with the new operator assuming it as part of a 30- or 40-year lease.
AUTHOR: Brian Feldt Senior Reporter St. Louis Business Journal