Airports Council Announces Winners of the 2021 Inclusion Champion Awards

WASHINGTON – Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), the trade association representing commercial service airports in the United States and Canada, today announced the recipients of the 2021 ACI-NA Inclusion Champion Awards. This year’s Inclusion Champion Award recipients are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA), and HNTB.

“Airports are committed to increasing diversity and promoting inclusive business opportunities throughout the aviation industry,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “This year’s Inclusion Champion Award recipients are exemplary of the strong work happening across North America to empower minority- and women-owned businesses and build a workforce that is representative of the people we serve. I applaud this year’s winners and look forward to continuing shared efforts to support workforce diversity, outreach, and advocacy.”

Large Hub Inclusion Champion: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

As an industry leader in small, minority, and female business participation, ATL has demonstrated its commitment to inclusion in four distinct programs: Equal Business Opportunity, Small Business Opportunity, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE). Through these programs in fiscal year 2020, $97 million was paid to minority business enterprises, $54 million to female business enterprises, $11 million to disadvantaged business enterprises, and $125 million to airport concession disadvantaged business enterprises. ATL has implemented a host of sustainable best practices that have resulted in the positive participation of diverse and small businesses, including serving as one of the first airports to provide COVID-19 rent relief to its ACDBE operators.

“We are thrilled to be recognized for our commitment to business inclusiveness,” said Balram Bheodari, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr, for whom the Airport is partially named, understood the importance of a diverse workforce and endeavored to expand opportunities for all businesses. His legacy continues to this day as we strive to include superlative – and diverse- teams in all facets of the organization.  Please accept our most sincere thanks for this award and rest assured that our work to grow the community that contributes to ATL’s success will continue unabated.”

As Georgia’s largest employer with 63,000 employees, ATL works to facilitate a steady pipeline of aviation professionals and frequently hosts career fairs to provide opportunities to thousands of job seekers throughout the region. In order to promote diversity and awareness amongst its aviation employees, ATL requires courses such as Workplace Cultural Competency, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, Unconscious Bias (Franklin Covey), and ADA Training. Additionally, the airport’s bimonthly New Employee Orientation – an iSpeakATL Cultural Competency Training segment – teaches team members how to harness Atlanta’s religious, cultural and linguistic diversity.

Medium Hub Inclusion Champion: Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA)

The IAA is deeply committed to fostering and increasing job opportunities for business, as well as building a diverse workforce that represents and serves its community. For instance, the IAA’s dedicated Supplier Diversity department facilitates participation of small and diverse suppliers in procurement and contract opportunities. The airport authority’s outreach efforts for diverse vendors have shown steady growth year after year, and despite ongoing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IAA exceeded its 2020 goal in sustaining business diversity participation. An internal pay equity analysis was recently completed to ensure that employees – regardless of gender, race, or job title – are compensated equally, and leadership and promotion demographics are frequently monitored to ensure equity across the organization.

“The Indianapolis Airport Authority aims to cultivate a self-sustaining culture that fosters equitable inclusion and diversity in all aspects of the business, ensuring people feel respected and valued,” said Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. “This recognition is a testament to our strategic focus for intentional inclusion through workforce development, economic development, and community engagement at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND).”

In addition to its internal focus, the IAA is actively engaged in diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the Indianapolis community. The IAA’s leadership team serves on boards dedicated to uplifting groups such as the Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council, Minority Engineering Program of Indianapolis, the International Center, the National Association of Women Business Owners, Diversity Roundtable of Central Indiana, and the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. The airport authority invested more than $100,000 in Central Indiana events and initiatives benefitting its diverse community in 2020 and 2021.

Associate Inclusion Champion: HNTB

Diversity, inclusion, and mentorship are inherent to HNTB’s culture, and the firm continues to maximize hiring opportunities for a diverse workforce. Its actions have resulted in an increase in the number of minority, female and veteran employees within the firm at all levels, including within management positions. HNTB partners with Direct Employers to post positions on more than 250 diversity state and local job boards, works with historically Black colleges and universities on 26 outreach programs, and participates in opportunity hub career fairs for diversity students.

“Being recognized as a champion of inclusion is a testament to the hard work, collaboration and commitment of our aviation professionals and our clients across the country,” said Lou Russo, national aviation market sector leader and senior vice president of the HNTB Corporation. “At HNTB, we recognize that diversity, in its many forms, brings needed insight and perspective to the work we do, and that committing ourselves to helping build a more inclusive and equitable workforce ultimately delivers better results.”

HNTB launched its Partners Program to focus on building relationships with small businesses that yield opportunities on transportation-related contracts. Through the program, HNTB provides guidance on sales and marketing strategies, HR and business operations support, technology, and tools for project management and delivery. HNTB also prioritizes disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) participation in its work at airports throughout the country. For example, the Orlando International Airport south terminal project included 35.2 percent DBE participation (29.6 percent minority- and women-owned businesses and 5.6 percent for local businesses), which exceeds industry standards.



About ACI-NA

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) represents local, regional, and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada. ACI-NA member airports enplane more than 95 percent of the domestic and virtually all the international airline passenger and cargo traffic in North America. Approximately 380 aviation-related businesses are also members of ACI-NA, providing goods and services to airports. Collectively, U.S. airports support more than 11.5 million jobs and account for $1.4 trillion in economic activity – or more than seven percent of the total U.S. GDP. Canadian airports support 405,000 jobs and contribute C$35 billion to Canada’s GDP. Learn more at