After a lengthy process and much deliberation, the Missoula International Airport on Tuesday awarded a vending contract for its new passenger terminal, one that will highlight a number of local businesses and products.
In a unanimous decision, the Missoula County Airport Authority selected Faber Coe & Gregg, a firm that has a presence in more than two-dozen U.S. airports and brings a number of perks to the new terminal.
As part of the agreement, the new concessionaire will feature local companies, including Black Coffee Roasters and KettleHouse Brewing Co., both based in Missoula. It will also offer benefits to its employees, airport officials said.
“One of the things we liked about the Faber design and proposal, they did use some local participation,” said Lynn Fagen, the airport’s administrative manager. “They used Black Coffee Roasting and they’ve entered into an agreement with the KettleHouse. Those are great local companies and that was a positive.”
As part of its terminal project, the airport last year sent out a request for proposals to all vendors interested in providing service from a bar and restaurant space planned in the new south concourse, which is currently under construction.
The airport selected five final bids and pared those down to three, including Pangaea Restaurant Group and Tailwinds. The selected concessionaire was required to design and complete the restaurant space as part of its package.
“They had probably the best price point, and everyone on the committee thought they had the best design,” said Fagen. “They brought their designer to the interview from Kalispell. They were the only proposer that had benefits for the employees. We feel they were most financially advantageous to the airport.”
Scott Billadeau, owner of Liquid Planet in Missoula, also bid on the proposal as Pangaea Restaurant Group. His proposal made the final round but was edged out by Faber in the final selection.
He expressed disappointment on Tuesday.
“It feels to us, as the lone local operator that was bidding, that there were lots of reason to go out of state rather than to look at all the reasons to go local,” Billadeau said. “It’s a point of frustration for us, having been a local company for so many years, but also having been a strong part of the airport for the past 16 years.”
The airport has said in recent months, and stated again on Tuesday, that it’s required to follow federal procurement procedures and bid each new contract. The current concession contract expires in 2024.
Billideau said local branding shouldn’t be confused with a local operator. He believes the agreement awarded to Faber represents a value of roughly $50 million over the term of the contract.
“I was not able to find much that handcuffed the Missoula airport board from thinking about the local community,” he said. “Being in our airport for the past 16 years, we have plenty of experience.”
While the airport selected Faber for the south concourse, work on the east concourse could begin sooner than anticipated, though that will depend upon financing and when air travel returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.
Airport officials have said the east concourse will also include concession space and Liquid Planet will be asked to submit a bid. The company’s airport contract is up in 2024.