A freshly stamped plan to bring more than a dozen women- and minority-owned businesses — among 40 local brands — to Kansas City’s new airport terminal is a surreal turn for Laronda Lanear, the Kansas City chef said, noting the project’s opportunity for generational impact.
“It’s going to change my life, my daughter’s life. It’s going to take my business to a whole new level,” said Lanear, founder of We Got It Covered Food Services and the in-the-works restaurant concept Safi Fresh, which was selected by New York-based Vantage Airport Group for the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
The Kansas City City Council voted 9-2 Thursday in support of Vantage managing the airport’s food, beverage and retail operations.
Key criteria noted by the city: Vantage’s emphasis on the inclusion of more than 80 percent local brands, the offering of significant opportunities for small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses (17 firms listed and 59 percent allocated to Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, vastly exceeding the project’s stated goal of 16 percent), and a strong financial offer with a private investment of $65 million requiring no public tax dollars.
“This is literally a life-changing event for small businesses in Kansas City,” said Lanear, whose healthy restaurant concept Safi Fresh is expected to debut alongside the new terminal in March 2023. (Vantage has committed to opening 100 percent of the concession offering on the first day of terminal operations.)
In addition to its $65 million investment, Vantage has committed to a $20 million opportunity fund and mentoring program, accessible to small, local, minority and ACDBE businesses operating in the terminal, the company said.
View this post on Instagram
Over the course of Vantage’s 15-year contract, the program is expected to generate an estimated $1.5 billion in concession sales, and $50 million in sales tax to the city.
Travelers will find unique, regionally-inspired shops and restaurants with the newest technology, reasonable prices, and the highest level of customer service, according to the city. Among the 40 local brands featured in the concessions program: Charlie Hustle, Urban Cafe, and Stockyards Brewing Co.
Are local brands up to the task? Click here for more reaction to Thursday’s vote.
Check out a map below of the planned concessions setup at the new terminal, then keep reading.
When complete, 80 percent of the eating and shopping experiences will be local, Vantage emphasized, noting the terminal concessions are expected to be organized by regionally inspired Kansas City neighborhood zones, including City Market, 18th & Vine, Stockyards, Union Station & Downtown, and Brookside.
Cultural and media partnerships will further deepen the unique experience at the airport, with partners including The Call Newspaper, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Turn the Page KC, and the American Jazz Museum incorporated into the concession offerings.
Watch a video showcasing concessions renderings below, then keep reading.
Vantage — which has worked with 31 other airports and currently manages operations at such major sites as New York’s LaGuardia Terminal B and Midway in Chicago — emerged from a pool of five proposers as an independent selection committee’s recommendation to the City Council.
At more than 1 million square feet, the Kansas City International Airport New Terminal project, Build KCI, is the largest single infrastructure project in the city’s history.
Slated to open in March 2023, the facility will replace the aging three-terminal complex with a single terminal and 6,000-plus space garage. The facility will open with 39 gates and the ability to expand up to 50 gates.
“Part of our mission with the new terminal is to provide the highest level in customer service and amenities and convey a sense of place in the Kansas City region,” said Pat Klein, director of aviation for Kansas City International Airport. “The Vantage Airport Group plan checks those boxes and more. We are eager to roll up our sleeves and work with Vantage to further improve the new front door to the community for Kansas Citians and our visitors.”
Simply put, Vantage — with the help of local small businesses — had the best proposal, said Lanear, who worked with the company for about a year before Thursday’s affirming vote.
“Vantage was just the best opportunity for Kansas City,” she said. “Now when passengers fly through, they’ll grab a piece of Kansas City and take it back home with them. It’s going to basically help us be known on a national level.”
Vendors like Lanear and Safi Fresh also have the potential opportunity to work with Vantage on future airport projects in other cities, she added, again noting the far-reaching impacts of Thursday’s vote.
“I’m really grateful to be part of this. I’m still taking it all in,” Lanear said. “I always had high hopes — and that’s why I rode this whole process out — but I knew it was going to happen because of how hard we worked to get here.”
Click here to learn more about Lanear’s small business journey so far.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.