Dave Edwards Chairman of ACI-NA Recap

Yesterday, GSP President and CEO Dave Edwards gave a speech during the Chairman’s Honors Luncheon at the 2013 ACI-NA Annual Conference and Exhibition in San Jose, California. His speech recapped his experience and accomplishments over the past year during his time as Chairman of ACI-NA. His remarks in their entirety can be found below, as well as a snapshot of him during the ceremony.

WOW…..that is the word I used to begin my remarks last year in Calgary and I use it again as it has been a great privilege to serve as your chairman, and to advocate on the collective behalf of U.S. and Canadian airports.  It also has been my pleasure to have had the chance to work closely with many of you and the ACI-NA staff during the past year. 

Last year in Calgary, I laid out goals that I hoped for us to achieve and the previous accomplishments on which we would seek to build on in 2013. 

Of significant focus was ensuring that North American airports remain globally competitive.  I am very pleased to note that ACI-NA’s Airports for the Future campaign continues to gain strength, and that our message is being heard loud-and-clear throughout the communities that we serve and connect with the rest of the world.  Our current objective to forge and develop relationships with a broad cross-section of like-minded allies, from the traditional to the perhaps unexpected, can only bolster our message to keep airports whole with stakeholders and policy-makers across the local and national levels.

As I remarked on Monday during the first general session, next week brings the beginning of a new fiscal year in the United States, and once again, Congress and the White House are far from agreement on a federal budget.  The ongoing sequestration does no favors for our airports.  This past spring, airport capital improvement projects were jeopardized due to the diversion of AIP funds to cover air traffic control operations, and raiding AIP again has been offered by some as an inevitable, even acceptable, solution to bridge FAA funding shortfalls.

Shortchanging U.S. airports today economically damages the long-term future of our nation and the commercial aviation industry we support on both sides of the border.  While we continue to work diligently for an increase in the PFC user fee and indexing it for inflation, U.S. airports shoulder the eroding purchasing power of the PFC, and elements of NextGen remain at risk of delayed development and introduction. 

The federal stalemate also continues to subject U.S. airports to the Alternative Minimum Tax penalty on private activity bonds, which only further drives up the cost for necessary capital improvement projects.

But as I also remarked Monday, we’ve accomplished quite a bit of which we should be proud of.  We are beginning to change the conversation about airports and their fundamental importance to the overall North American economy.  ACI-NA continues to pursue strong, strategic relationships with DHS, TSA, CBP, Transport Canada and CATSA, which are helping to translate into more efficient, risk-based security and facilitation programs and regulations.  The prime examples of this are the PreCheck, Global Entry and NEXUS programs, which have continued to expand to new airports in 2013.  In addition, we continue to work with DHS, Transport Canada and other countries to encourage these agencies to develop mutually recognized trusted traveler programs so that more passengers can be most efficiently served.

With respect to ACI-NA itself, our own cross-border ties have never been stronger.  The integration of the staff and expertise of the Canadian Airports Council into the overall ACI-NA structure has gone exceptionally well and to the great benefit of all our members.  I am very confident that ACI-NA’s voice will grow even more powerful in the coming years on both Capitol Hill and Parliament Hill to allow the North American airport industry to better compete globally.

A major goal that I set out to accomplish this past year was to develop a five-year strategic business plan for our organization.  While significant headway was made in this regard a final plan has yet to be adopted by the ACI-NA Board and my hope is that we will continue and complete this effort helping to set the future course for ACI-NA.

I also indicated last year that we would set-up focus groups to address certain services, conferences, educational offerings, etc., which we did with very positive results including the decision to completely revamp the Concession Conference in 2015.

I wanted to ensure that as Chairman this past year that I worked to build a closer relationship with our World Business Partners and Associates, as they are so key to the success of ACI-NA.  I would like to recognize Kevin Dolliole, Chairman of the WBP and Associates Committee as he and I made a concerted effort to reach out to each other and forged some new ideas to strengthen our partnership.  As such I believe I can say that significant headway has been made in this regard through our mutual efforts.

In this first year of a fully integrated U.S. and Canadian ACI-NA, it was my pleasure to attend several meetings throughout Canada.  I truly found that so many of our airport and aviation challenges are not unique, but shared by all of us in North America and that we have such a great opportunity to learn from one another.

This past year also brought with it some unforeseen challenges and opportunities. 

We saw some of our membership becoming extremely restless and frankly disenchanted with our organization.  Significant efforts were undertaken to better address the needs and desires of these members and as such they are all back on team ACI-NA, but I believe it should be a lesson for all of us as to why our organization exists — “it exists to serve its members”.

During the year, our president announced he was stepping down which triggered numerous discussions and meetings amongst the Board, ACI-NA Past Chairs, and World Business Partners & Associates Past Chairs as to the type of leader we would seek.  As we are underway with our search for a new president, you can be certain that the Board’s selection will embody the excellence and expertise that will help the airport industry and ACI-NA continue to grow and prosper.

We have also been presented with a unique opportunity for our industry, as both ACI-NA and AAAE have leadership changes occurring.  The simple flight-path for each organization would be to continue conducting business as usual.  However, I truly believe that this is the wrong path for our industry.  There is no question that at a minimum ACI-NA and AAAE need to work and coordinate together in a more cooperative fashion than in the past, but that is low hanging fruit and our respective memberships should expect more from the leadership of each organization.  ACI-NA and AAAE leadership have met several times over the last six months to discuss various options to consolidate certain and or all services and functions of the two organizations over time.  ACI-NA presented to AAAE a proposal that would take a bold step in this direction through the creation of a Joint Services Organization by both ACI-NA and AAAE to represent the “industry” on Federal Affairs (legislative and regulatory).  It is a good idea and makes absolute sense to have our industry represented by a single, strong organization that can deliver the most efficient and effective services to its members.  Both organizations need to find a way to do the right thing for the industry, and as a member of ACI-NA, and if you are a member of AAAE as I am, you need to use your voice to help initiate changes that can have a positive impact for our industry. 

I recently ran across the following quote by Colin Powell that I think is very apropos:

“No good idea succeeds simply because it is a good idea.  Good ideas must have champions—people willing to believe in them, push for them, fight for them, gain adherents and champions, and press until they succeed.”

I think we have to be brave and take the appropriate steps to ensure that our industry is represented in a way in the future that will deliver the necessary results for all of us to be successful, but this will take people, it will take you, being champions for the cause.

Before I conclude, I need to thank the ACI-NA Executive Committee, Board and Staff for their unwavering support this year.  In addition, I need to recognize my Staff at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District for going above and beyond this past year, while much of my time has been spent fulfilling the role of ACI-NA Chair.  I would like to extend thanks to my Airport Commission members as well for their support and for allowing me to take time away from my day job to serve our industry.  Lastly, but frankly most importantly, I need to give a shout out to my wife Lisa, who is always by my side, and who without, I would not be successful.

In closing, I wish to express to you all again my heartfelt appreciation for the tremendous privilege it has been to serve as your chairman. The achievements and long-term strategies to ensure the future success of North America’s airports only can be accomplished with your support and guidance, and I look forward to helping advance ACI-NA’s mission as the voice of airports in 2014 under the leadership of our new chairman, Mark Reis.

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