Future massage spas at airport delayed by change in set-aside program

By David Pendered

Three massage spas, nail salons or hair care shops are to open at Atlanta’s airport next year, the largest of them at the concourse that will serve the new international terminal.

The due date for bids was postponed from Wednesday to Dec. 14, following the city’s decision to throw out all of its original provisions that aim to help small businesses win a contract.

These spa contracts are not part of the massive procurement process that is to culminate with new airport contracts for 152 restaurants, shops and kiosks. Winners of most of those contracts are to be announced in early December and contracts signed in January, a city document states.

The city extended the deadline for bids on the personal care spas after throwing out – at least on this one procurement – its program that was designed to bolster opportunities for small business enterprises (SBEs). The city had set a goal of 35 percent of the spa business to be awarded to a certified small business.

In a Nov. 7 letter, the Procurement Department said it had made substantial changes to the set-aside program. The letter doesn’t provide details of the reason for the changes.

This is the explanation the city provided in the letter:

“Many businesses that appear in our register as certified M/FBEs (minority/female business enterprises) or SBEs are not currently certified as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Certification of ACDBEs (airport concession DBEs) is being handled by a different agency….”

The state Department of Transportation is one agency that certifies disadvantaged businesses so they can qualify for work anywhere in the state as a DBE.

The city also raised the participation goal for the spa procurement by a point, to 36 percent.

A spa is to be built in each of the following locations: the new Concourse F, which will serve the new international terminal (1,000 square feet); Concourse E, an existing international terminal (966 square feet); and Concourse D, which is used by many airlines (351 square feet).

Here are some details of the spa contracts:

  • Contracts extend seven years, with an option for a three-year renewal;
  • Initial investment is to be a minimum of $350 a square feet;
  • Nail salons can offer manicures, pedicures, wraps, sculpting, etc.;
  • Hair salons can offer haircuts, shampoos, blow drying, etc.;
  • Massage spas can offer chair massage, neck, back, Swedish, hot rock, etc.

Seven potential bidders attended a pre-proposal conference on Nov. 3, according to the attendance list.

Among them was Kevin Ross, on behalf of a company that now runs two massage spas at the airport – XpresSpa. Ross also serves as co-chair of the campaign to get voters to support the proposed creation of a 1-percent sales tax to pay for transportation and transit projects in metro Atlanta.

Others who attended listed addresses cities including Chicago, Stone Mountain, Lithonia, Conyers and Decatur.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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