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VOL. 124 | NO. 249 | Monday, December 21, 2009

Flintco Plays Major Role in Reshaping Airport

By Eric Smith

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BUSINESS IS GOOD: As the Flintco Cos. Inc. wraps up construction of the new air traffic control tower at Memphis International Airport, it prepares to begin work on a seven-story ground transportation center that will sit in front of the airport. -- PHOTO BY LANCE MURPHEY

The Flintco Cos. Inc. doesn’t operate aircraft or transport cargo, but the Tulsa, Okla.-based company is leaving an indelible imprint on Memphis International Airport.

While FedEx garners headlines for making Memphis the world’s busiest cargo airport year after year, and while Delta is well-known for operating a passenger hub here, the work that Flintco has completed and will soon undertake is transformative.

As Flintco nears completion of the airport’s $55 million air traffic control tower – the third tallest in the U.S. and fifth-tallest in the world – the company is less than three months away from breaking ground on one of the largest single building projects in the airport’s history.

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority last week voted unanimously to award Flintco an $89.5 million contract for a seven-story ground transportation center to the airport. The facility, whose total cost is $121 million, will house long-term parking and rental car operations.

Kevin Moyes, Flintco’s Memphis division president, said the company “feels fortunate” to be associated with such an important economic engine like Memphis International Airport, which has an impact of $28.6 billion annually and accounts for one in three local jobs.

Moyes said construction of the ground transportation center will create more than 300 jobs – including company employees, subcontractors, suppliers and manufacturers – providing a huge short-term impact. But the benefit of enhancing the airport experience for travelers also is an important consideration when looking at this facility.

“Certainly for Flintco, it’s a great project to have,” Moyes said. “It’s going to be a high-visibility project, and a project that will literally impact our community in multiple ways.”

Minority impact

Flintco was chosen from six bidders for the job, and while it wasn’t the low bidder, it was the lowest “qualified” bidder, airport management said. Another company, Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, submitted a bid of $83.7 million, but it was deemed “non-responsive and did not meet the requirements contained in the bid documents.”

Specifically, it didn’t meet the airport authority’s DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) requirements, meaning the inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses for subcontracts. That’s an area where privately held Flintco thrives – the company is Native-American owned.

Additionally, because the airport authority is committed to fostering the values of DBE participation, Moyes said the company worked diligently to reach out to minority partners for this project.

“We really didn’t know until the day of the bid what our percentage would be,” he said. “When we got all the numbers and got everything up and looked at the percentages, we were ecstatic to find out that we not only had met the goal, but we were able to exceed it.”

Moyes said the company faces plenty of challenges on this project, but those will be similar to the ones it faced with building the 336-foot air traffic control tower.

While building a large-scale facility on the busy airport grounds creates some logistical obstacles, recent enhancements to roads in and out of the airport have helped traffic flow, making it easier for Flintco to get equipment and deliveries to the site.

“Because of the layout and the flow of the airport, it’s really worked very well for us,” Moyes said. “We’ve had good experience with the tower, and certainly that helped us and gave us an advantage in pursuing the parking garage project.”

Local reach

Flintco will wrap up its work on the tower next summer, handing the facility over to the Federal Aviation Administration, which then will install the tower’s radar equipment and systems. Once the new tower is operational, about a year later, the FAA will vacate the old tower and Flintco will demolish it.

Moyes said that although the tower and ground transportation projects are separate, including different management teams, some but not all of the subcontractors from the tower will shift over to the ground transportation center.

Also, renderings of the facility will be unveiled in January. The architectural designer of record is Walker Parking Consultants, while Looney Ricks Kiss Architects completed conceptual drawings and Self Tucker Architects Inc. will design the construction drawings.

Flintco has about 125 full-time employees, down from 200 a few years ago when the economy was better and construction jobs were more plentiful. Moyes, who has been with the company 23 years and almost 22 of those in Memphis, said these airport projects have been a boon because of the size of the contracts and the amount of people the company is able to employ.

Building high-profile projects at a place that sees thousands of visitors each day doesn’t hurt, either, Moyes admitted. That’s why the Flintco logo, with its distinctive arrowhead, has become as commonplace at Memphis International as that of any airline.

“We conveniently have signs placed so that when you pull into the airport, you see our sign, and when you leave, you see our sign,” Moyes said with a laugh.

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