Airport Picks Pennsylvania Firm

December 1, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — A Grand Rapids marketing company vying for the advertising concession for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport terminal lost the bid to Pennsylvania-based Interspace Airport Advertising despite a grassroots effort to keep the contract local.

Before the Kent County Board of Aeronautics voted on the contract Wednesday, Ron Brown, owner of RB Business Image Services, made a final pitch for the five-year contract and underscored the importance of keeping jobs, contracts and revenues in Grand Rapids rather than sending them out of state. Brown asked the board to postpone the vote and to review again the proposal submitted by RB Business Image Services.

“The most important question we ask you to ask yourselves before casting a final vote is which company do you think can sell the most amount of advertising and generate the most amount of revenue for the airport?” Brown said in addressing the aeronautics board. “An out-of-state company with no local sales force? Or our strategic alliance of six local companies with local sales forces that make local and regional sales calls on a daily basis, already has hundreds of advertisers and thousands of business relationships, has more than 150 years of combined local business experience, and is passionate about helping local companies attract customers and successfully grow their businesses while making our community economically stronger?”

Brown concluded that it was not in the best interest of the general public to send revenues out of the community to another state. Every dollar that leaves the community, he said, has a ripple effect that impacts everyone.

“Michigan is in economic turmoil. Michigan is hemorrhaging jobs. Residents and businesses are leaving,” he added. Brown also pointed out that members of the community had written approximately 100 e-mails and letters “crying out for the board not to send this contract out of state.”

Brown, in fact, launched an e-mail campaign in early November seeking support for his cause. He asked people to send him a return e-mail “that urges Kent County Aeronautics Board members to award the contract to our locally owned Ron Brown business and keep our local West Michigan money in West Michigan.” At last week’s meeting, six business owners and one college student came before the board in a show of support for Brown and for the basic concept of “staying local.”

RB Business Image Services offers outdoor billboard advertising, trade show graphics, back-lit billboards, and interior and exterior business signs and graphics. The company, which has been in business for two years, offers advertising space in Centerpointe Mall, RiverTown Crossings and Breton Village. The company proposed a minimum annual guarantee of $75,000 in revenue for each of the five years of the contract.

Interspace Airport Advertising currently operates airport advertising concessions at 149 airports in North America and has been in business for nearly 38 years. The company proposed a minimum annual guarantee of $120,000 in revenue for the first year and an increase of $1,000 per year for years two through five. The company is partnering with two local firms to assist it in operating the Ford International advertising concession.

Airport staff initiated the request for proposals process for the advertising concession in late July and subsequently received proposals from RB Business Image Services, Departure Media and Interspace Airport Advertising. Staff recommended Interspace for the job. The selection was then reviewed by the airport’s finance, administration and public relations committee, which supported the recommendation. The board voted unanimously in favor of awarding the contract to Interspace Airport Advertising.

Board member Dean Agee said the board “took extraordinary action” in October when it delayed the vote on the contract to review the issues.

“We did review the proposals and also looked very closely at the process we used,” Agee said.    

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