Recently, a letter to the editor questioned whether the selection by Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) of a new advertising agency from Maitland, Fla., and the replacement of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel with a private firm headquartered in Virginia run counter to its solicitation for local economic loyalty.
Let me provide the facts behind the selections and also clarification of what SRQ's "Do You SRQ" program requests.
As the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority is a public agency, there are considerable legal and regulatory requirements it must follow when soliciting proposals for services. The airport publicly advertised in both the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Herald Tribune twice, in a Florida Aviation periodical, and on a governmental procurement website for marketing firms. The airport received six submittals, three from Sarasota County-based firms and three from firms elsewhere in Florida.
The evaluation criteria ranked the firms based upon experience, in-house creative, proposed fees, financial stability and previous work with airports, to name just a few. Three firms were shortlisted and made final presentations to the board. The board chose Patterson-Bach based upon all those factors and their excellent presentation.
In the end, SMAA must select the firm that best meets the qualifications and requirements at a cost that provides the best value. I would think residents would want all government agencies to utilize that philosophy to ensure prudent expenditure of resources.
As an aside, neither the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau nor Visit Sarasota County utilize a Manatee or Sarasota County based advertising firm, and they spend millions more than SRQ on marketing services. Given the area is enjoying record tourism success, both organizations arguably have made wise choices.
In the matter of TSA, the regulations permit an airport to request approval only for a private company's contracted services. TSA, which is a federal agency based in Washington, approved SRQ's request to privatize.
The selection of the security firm then is completely in the hands of TSA and handled under federal procurement rules. The Virginia-based firm was chosen by TSA, not the airport.
The employees presently working for TSA may transfer to other TSA locations or work for the new contractor. Under law, those who choose to work for the new contractor have preference and their compensation levels must be equal to federal standards.
Finally, our "Do You SRQ" pledge program requested that residents look at SRQ first, and then asked if they could not find a fare or schedule that met their needs when flying from another airport, they stay loyal to the airlines that serve them locally at SRQ. Our program essentially asks that you support the carriers that support our community. We did not ask for blind allegiance to SRQ regardless of the price or schedule.
Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.
Fredrick J. Piccolo, is the president and CEO of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.