How the Best Airport in North America Sustains A Diverse and Inclusive Workforce and Suppliers

At the Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA), our overarching mission is to deliver public value for our community, and one way we accomplish this is by intentionally cultivating a self-sustaining culture that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our business.

We work strategically to make the IAA a place where ALL employees, passengers, stakeholders, and airport business partners feel included, valued, and respected while promoting cultural awareness and understanding, cultivating a diverse talent pipeline, supporting diversity and inclusion efforts within our community, and increasing small and diverse business participation for meaningful opportunities across Indiana’s largest airport system in the Indianapolis metro area.

I firmly believe that it is through this intentional work that the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) was recently named the Best Airport in North America by Airports Council International for the 10th straight year, becoming the only airport to ever achieve this prestigious recognition for an entire decade.

Our Decade of Excellence was made possible by thousands of individuals from different backgrounds who come to work at the IAA and IND, and they did it all during unprecedented times. Thanks to our team’s ability to adapt during the pandemic, IND has recovered more quickly than peer airports, reprioritized major infrastructure projects, and continued strategic financial decision making. 

We aren’t concerned with “getting back to normal,” rather, we’re moving forward and planning for what’s to come next. We’re focused on how to remain the Best Airport in North America for another 10 years, and that will occur with a continued emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion – through IAA’s strategic pillars of Workforce Development, Economic Development, and Community Engagement.

Workforce Development

Within Workforce Development, we start with recruiting diverse talent, partnering with community organizations, such as Ascend Indiana, Bosma Enterprises, EmployIndy, Indiana Black Expo, Indiana Latino Institute, Indianapolis Latino Expo, Indianapolis Urban League, and IndyHub to expand our reach. In 2021, 45% of new hires represent diverse groups.

When it comes to talent retention, one of the most important things we can do is provide opportunities for our employees to continually grow. Our staff and Board participate in cultural competency, ADA/Title VI compliance, and implicit bias training, and assist in leadership development and succession planning. Our senior leadership is currently comprised of 50% women or racial minorities.

We are proud to be one of the first adopters of the Good Wages Initiative that certifies Marion County employers committed to providing full-time employees with a wage of at least $18/hour and access to employer-sponsored health insurance benefits.

Economic Development

The IAA continually seeks out small and diverse businesses to enhance airport services. In 2021, IAA had a 31% overall participation with disadvantaged, minority, women, and veteran-owned business enterprises, representing $23.9 million with 154 businesses. Over the last three years, IAA spent more than $114 million with DMWVBEs, averaging 35% participation in areas including operations, construction, goods, and professional services. 

We host community outreach events to provide additional information on how to do business with the airport, upcoming capital projects, and provide networking opportunities. Through Business Equity for Indy, we’re also advocates for the Procurement Roundtable to guide others in creating a supplier diversity program that meets their needs and expanding procurement opportunities for Black Business Enterprises.

Additionally, we partner with the Airport Minority Advisory Council, City of Indianapolis Office of Minority Business Development, Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council, and National Association of Women Business Owners Indianapolis to support the growth of diverse businesses.

Community Engagement

Through our Community Engagement efforts, we take advantage of elevating the diverse community we serve. We are honored to partner with organizations such as the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, Indianapolis Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Peace Learning Center, MLK Center Indy, Mayor’s Latino Advisory Council, Martin University National Center for Race and Equity, and Indianapolis Urban League African American Quality of Life.

Additionally, we collaborate with local artists to uplift diverse talent and highlight diverse legacies in Indiana. During the pandemic, the IAA commissioned local artists to turn dormant construction walls into placemaking through public art. Expansive murals celebrated the diversity and legacy of Hoosier icon and self-made millionaire Madam Walker and world-champion cyclist Major Taylor.

As a 2021 Inclusion Champion from Airports Council International and a past recipient of the Sam H. Jones “Best of the Best” in the Mayor’s Celebration of Diversity Awards, among many other accolades, we’re proud that our strategic emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion has been recognized locally and nationally. However, that’s not why we do what we do.

The IAA would not be the world-class organization it is or be the recipient of such recognitions without our people. When people feel respected and valued, they actively engage and contribute. That’s why we intentionally value diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization and do our best to advance it in the community through partners such as BEI.

I have seen the impact of our continued efforts, and I am inspired to see how this commitment has benefited our relationships with travelers, employees, and vendors. Through our core values of Respect, Integrity, Trust, and Excellence, we will continue to provide public value for generations to come.

Mario Rodriguez
Blog authored by Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director, Indianapolis Airport Authority.

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