Preliminary renderings give some indication of what the airport’s Grand Hall could look like as part of the title sponsor agreement. Courtesy Gerald R. Ford International Airport
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Amway was named the title sponsor for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s new $45 million Gateway Transformation Project.
On Sept. 1, Alticor, Amway’s parent company, entered into an $8 million agreement with the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority to become the title sponsor of the new gateway terminal, the Amway Gateway, located in the Grand Hall.
The agreement includes Alticor’s affiliate companies, including Amway, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the JW Marriott Grand Rapids.
Video sponsorship and product placements are part of the 10-year title sponsorship agreement.
Alticor will have the option to extend its sponsorship of the gateway terminal upon expiration of the agreement.
The Gateway Transformation Project is a two-phase renovation project aimed at modernizing the airport and improving the experience for travelers.
It includes consolidation of the airport’s security checkpoints into a centralized checkpoint, an expansion of the Grand Hall to include additional food and retail options, concourse upgrades and updates to the ticketing and baggage claim areas.
Curt Pullen, chairman of the Gateway Transformation Campaign and former president of Herman Miller North America, said the title sponsorship is the highest level sponsorship offered through the Gateway Transformation Campaign, which is an effort that started last year to raise $20 million for the $45 million project.
Pullen said Brian Ryks, former executive director at GFIA, suggested a public-private partnership to fund a portion of the Gateway Transformation Project, rather than having the airport take on the full cost burden.
“They’ve worked very hard to keep costs as low as possible,” Pullen said. “If they borrowed the money, they would have to pay it back with interest and that adds to the total cost structure. The goal was to reduce that cost.”
Pullen said a feasibility study was conducted with 50 West Michigan companies to figure out if the support was there to raise the necessary funds, and in 2016, after determining enough support existed within the community, a list of sponsorship options was compiled, and the Gateway Transformation Campaign began.
Pullen said a campaign committee is meeting with 60 West Michigan organizations throughout this year in an effort to garner support. It already met with about half of the organizations on its list.
“To date, we’ve raised $16.1 million. We have $3.9 million to go,” Pullen said.
Pullen said Amway’s commitment was “extremely fortunate” for the airport.
Bill Payne, Amway vice chairman, said the company decided to become the project’s title sponsor because of its commitment to the airport and its importance to the economic growth of the community.
“The airport plays such a critical role for our community; it’s the first impression visitors get when they arrive and key to the growth of many local businesses,” he said. “The Gateway Transformation Project will improve travelers’ experience, including a faster, more efficient security checkpoint and enhanced facilities, both before and after security, for more comfortable travel.”
Payne noted Amway alone is responsible for tens of thousands of visitors arriving and departing from GFIA each year.
He also said the title sponsorship provides an excellent marketing opportunity for Amway.
“As visitors enter the new Grand Hall, the Amway Gateway will welcome and introduce them to West Michigan and our company,” he said. “With the more than 2.5 million passengers who flew through Grand Rapids last year, how could we afford not to do this?”
Pullen said as far as he is aware, this type of public-private partnership is the first of its kind for an airport.
“It is the first arrangement — that we’re aware of — where an airport has utilized this unique funding model of combining airport funds with support from sponsors and other donors from the community,” he said.
He said Grand Rapids’ history of public-private partnerships is what made Ryks believe the model could work and would be embraced.
Pullen said the airlines serving GFIA have been impressed with the model.
“The airlines love it,” he said. “Delta Airlines asked if it could be done in other places.”
He said West Michigan businesses are sending a clear signal to airlines they are committed to the airport and air travel in the region.
“The airlines are running a business, and they are making business decisions, and when they see businesses working together to improve the customer experience, it signals a strong commitment to air service. It tells them to keep bringing us choices,” he said.
Pullen expects other airports will be interested in the model.
“This is a pioneering event,” he said. “We are working together and hope other communities could adopt this, and we are willing to share how we went through this process. We would love to be a model for other cities.”
Construction on Phase 1 of the Gateway Transformation will be completed in June, and Phase 2 will be completed by Dec. 31, 2018.