- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend met with a group of Baltimore-area business leaders this week to organize a private task force that would promote Baltimore/Washington International Airport, state transportation officials said yesterday.
The task force is intended to imitate promotional efforts by Washington Dulles International Airport and up the ante in the competition between the area airports for international business.
The new venture is tentatively called the BWI Industry Council, said Eric Madden, marketing director for BWI.
As planned, the organization would be the equivalent of the Washington Airports Task Force, an industry-led group that promotes Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a means of attracting business to the region.
"They've done an excellent job of marketing Dulles," Mr. Madden said. "We are attempting to do the same here. We're attempting to unite resources of the state and the business community to market BWI. The airport can only do so much, but it's the business community that actually puts passengers on the plane."
The Washington Airports Task Force receives annual appropriations from the Virginia General Assembly, which is matched by businesses that work with the task force. The task force also receives small grants from local governments and private contributors. The group's independent marketing effort supplements ongoing efforts by Dulles' marketing department, said Leo Schefer, president of the Washington Airports Task Force.
"We do not see BWI as competition," Mr. Schefer said. "They are part of this region. We have on occasion supported their efforts. If, however, their group is going to try to bring airlines from Dulles to BWI, we wouldn't be happy."
Until now, the only marketing efforts at BWI were in-house. The airport's marketing department operates with a $2.8 million annual budget.
"We're refocusing," Mr. Madden said. "We're still in our infancy stages, but the governor and the lieutenant governor have been taking an aggressive role in bringing the business community together."
Chip Brown, the Democratic lieutenant governor's spokesman, said, "It was the first in a series of meetings. The lieutenant governor is going to eventually form a council. She wants to remain close to this group."
The next meeting is tentatively planned for early December.
David Blackshear, executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, said that if the BWI Industry Council becomes reality, Mrs. Townsend is the proper person to organize it.
"The lieutenant governor would be the primary leader to build an organization very similar to that of the Washington Airports Task Force to level the playing field," Mr. Blackshear said. "We hope that it will lead to additional focus by international airlines."
So far, BWI's greatest successes have come from marketing to smaller international air carriers interested in opening gateways in the United States. Recent additions have included Ghana Airways, which started service at BWI July 5, and Ireland's Aer Lingus, which opened at BWI Sept. 6.
Other international airlines with gateways at BWI are Air Jamaica, Iceland Air, British Airways, Air Aruba and Air Canada. BWI's biggest airline is Southwest Airlines.
Even without a more aggressive marketing campaign, BWI is the nation's second-fastest-growing airport. In July, BWI set a one-month record when 1.8 million passengers used the airport, up 10.7 percent from a year earlier. At the beginning of this year, BWI officials predicted 18 million passengers would use the airport in 2000. Now they are projecting the figure to be about 20 million.
The only U.S. airport with a faster growth rate is Dulles.
Mr. Blackshear described BWI's marketing efforts as an attempt to redistribute airline business more equitably.
"Things seem to me out of sync," Mr. Blackshear said. "There's more population on the Maryland side of the river than the Washington side of the river. It's a matter of putting the service where the demand is."
Mr. Blackshear said an industry task force like the one Mrs. Townsend is trying to organize could be more successful than BWI's marketing efforts so far. The airport already has an advisory committee of business leaders, but it does not operate with the same independence as the Washington Airports Task Force.
"You cannot market air service as well from government agencies as you can from actual customers who buy the tickets," Mr. Blackshear said.
About 60 percent of airline passengers who use BWI are business customers. They also are a primary focus of the airport's marketing efforts, which makes them good candidates for leading the proposed BWI Industry Council, Mr. Blackshear said.
"Unless you come to the table telling the airlines you have the capacity to get passengers to buy their tickets, you cannot get their service," he said.
Although Mr. Blackshear could not disclose the names of business leaders at the BWI Industry Council organizational meeting Monday, he said Mrs. Townsend met with support.
"The general consensus of the people there was yes, we should do this," Mr. Blackshear said. "This is not going to be a governmental organization. We'll provide whatever resources we can but otherwise butt out."

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