Ben Zandi, Fraport-USA CEO

By  Ms. June

EXCLUSIVE — NASHVILLE, TN — As Nashville continues to bask in the title of being known as the “It City,” the new award winning developer that will help overhaul the Nashville airport is including minority businesses in the concession program in the equation at the onset.  Fraport-USA, led by dynamic CEO Ben Zandi is very passionate about minority and women-owned businesses as he is a Tennessean who hails from a long line of conglomerate success directly from Bristol, TN.  The former Bristol, TN Vice-Mayor and Council member believes it is a duty to reach back to pull others up once you’ve elevated to the top.  Specifically to minorities because it is often hard to operate on equal ground when it comes to business.  Mr. Zandi is no stranger to managing many multi-million dollar deals in succession as evidenced by his success in Bristol, TN and as the current developer for airports in Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and John F. Kennedy’s (JFK)Terminal Five in New York. 

Since winning the contract fair and square and battling the opposition trying to politicize the process and diminish their business model, Fraport USA’s $17.4 million dollar contract was approved by the Financial Committee on August 8, 2018 and the final vote was held by the Board of Directors on August 15, 2018.  No stranger to being accused of gimmicks because of the strong goals to support and develop minority owned businesses, Mr. Zandi is on record with proven results that the business model of Fraport-USA easily surpasses the airports goal of doing 22.6 percent in concessions contracts with minorities and 45 percent with locals.  It was further stated during the interview by Mr. Zandi, that “To anyone that thinks Fraport-USA’s on-the-record stance of supporting minority businesses is a gimmick, they have proven and confirmed their track record in every state in which they have airport contracts.”  As a minority business owner, Mr. Zandi is proud of his team in place that has been doing business with and developing solid minority businesses for well over 25 years. 

When asked by the Tennessee Tribune why did Fraport-USA give $17.4 million dollars to the city instead of the $13 million listed in the proposal process, Mr. Zandi replied, “We are bringing a world-class airport and passenger experience to Terminals A, B, and C to ensure it matches Terminal D and grand hall as the Nashville airport will become the crown jewel of North American airports.”  He further stated, “This was also our way of ensuring that we’re stimulating the economy, and inviting the local businesses to have direct access to this economic engine and enjoy and keep the profit in Nashville.”   

When asked about a simple description of the business model Fraport-USA uses, Mr. Zandi explained that this business model keeps the profit in the city of Nashville and truly understands the difficulty for minority businesses and local vendors to have an opportunity to do business or have business success in the airport concessions environment.   

Fraport-USA will have key partnership programs with the Tennessee Tribune as well as Empower, the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League to support the students, educational programs, scholarships, and internship programs with the goal of getting them involved with the aviation space.  The Urban League is not new to Fraport-USA as they’ve been in partnership with them in Baltimore for over seven years.  In Baltimore, Fraport created a proprietary program called, LaunchPad, designed to create opportunity for the smallest of small businesses.  Through LaunchPad, they hope to grow the next generation of airport retailers.

There are over 50 different operators in Nashville that have signed a letter of interest with Fraport USA, some minorities and ACDBE certified, that Mr. Zandi has personally met such as 400 Degree Chicken, Prince’s Chicken and Slim and Huskies, as Fraport- USA diversifies the offerings in airport concessions while engaging minority businesses.

Travelers can expect to pay street pricing at the airport and they will be able to pay the same price for a bottle of water in the airport as they do outside the airport.  Mr. Zandi stated, “We are bringing a sense of humanity to our business model and therefore our passenger experience is unique.”  Mr. Zandi will lead the BNA’s vision project in Nashville and get to know the city and he has already been in talks with newly elected Mayor Briley about the renewed interest in developing minority businesses and ensuring they have fair opportunities to compete. 

The new airport will have a radio station, a concert stage, a recording station, a music vault to teach music lessons and a bowling alley.  This will be an enjoyable place to come before a flight instead of stressing.  National brands and local operators such as Burger King, Popeye’s and other existing operators will still continue to enjoy their existing business opportunities through various options.  Fraport-USA offers a turn-key solution that includes marketing, financing road maps and business leadership to all of their airport minority businesses. 

Fraport-USA is honored to be a part of the vision for Nashville BNA’s airport and they look forward to meeting community business members during their August 28th and September 27th Industry Day events.  For vendors, small businesses and minorities no matter what the wares, seeking to do business with the airport under Fraport-USA, you can attend their Industry Day events that will be announced with times and locations soon by their partner the Tennessee Tribune.