Sky Harbor Business

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A recent Department of Transportation study places Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International airport at the top of the list for best airport for new small business growth. In 2012, 14 new small businesses were added and more are slated for the coming year. We talk to two business owners about their successes and challenges of operating at the airport and why Sky Harbor is gaining a reputation as a great airport for “foodies.”

Ted Simons: The Department of Transportation recently named Sky harbor the number one airport in the country for small business growth. The last two years 14 businesses, mostly restaurants, have opened their doors in the airport. Producers Shana Fischer and scot olson profile two of these local businesses.

Shana Fischer: It's the perfect recipe to combine good food with good service and the people will come.

Gonzalo De La Melena: Sir Veza's is a take on a European pub, but fueled with Mexican today. We call it a gastrocantina.

Shana Fischer: He opened in terminal 4 two years ago. He says the keys to success are simple.

Gonzalo De La Melena: The speed of service is paramount in the airport business. Affordability and convenience is also critical. People usually have just a couple of few minutes before they have to get to their flight. So, what makes operating of the airport different is that mindset of the speed of service. We have driven the speed down to three minutes or less in order to accommodate the traveling passenger.

Shana Fischer: In the b gates' area, Helen young and her business partner operate sweet republic, an artisan ice cream shop.

Helen Yung: Because ice cream is all about traffic flow, we need lots of foot traffic, and there is no more foot traffic than there is at the airport. We have a lot of people asking us to, you know, to bring our concept to other locations.

Shana Fischer: Young says the portability of her ice cream served in cups, cones, or shakes, makes it appealing for travelers. Opened since March 2014, yung says that she already has seen a tremendous difference in airport food offerings.

Helen Yung: People are more excited to come early to the airport, and actually, have a good time, have a good meal before getting on the plane.

Shana Fischer: The airport spokesperson Julie Rodriguez says sky harbor made a conscious effort to attract small businesses, and it worked.

Julie Rodriguez: We have had tremendous feedback, and social media is a really good gauge. Lots of positive tweets and Facebook posts about how great our food is, people are pleasantly surprised when they get near the gate and they find a favorite local restaurant. Maybe a restaurant that may have an hour wait in another part of the city, they can walk right in and enjoy here at sky harbor.

Shana Fischer: Mike dixon is one of 100,000 passengers that pass through sky harbor every day. He says the airport ask a great way to connect with local businesses and get an idea of a city.

Mike Dixon: What's interesting is to see what local things going on. So, if you can catch that at the airport, that's kind of fun. I'm not leaving the airport, you know, I am going to fly out in an hour, but if I get a flavor of what Phoenix is like, that's cool.

Shana Fischer: Terminal 4 has everything from a rib joint to soul food to full service restaurants. De La Melena says when small businesses thrive at the airport, it is good news for the state's economy, too.

Gonzalo De La Melena: Small business ownership is really driving our economy for the State of Arizona. If you think about 97% of all jobs in the state are small business owned. There is 400,000 small businesses of which 100,000 are minority owned, grown at a rate four times faster, so the future growth of Arizona is really dependent on our ability to get more women and minority-owned businesses access to capital contracts and owning their own business. I was really the future.

Ted Simons: The airport will soon be revamping its retail offerings in terminal 4 followed by a re-haul of retail in terminal 3. Thursday on Arizona Horizon, we'll talk about a new art exhibit with research conducted on two Arizona endangered species, and that's it, that's for Thursday evening, 5:30, right here on the next Arizona Horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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