At Hudson Group’s 13th Annual Management Seminar and Vendor Show, President & CEO Joe DiDomizio announced the Proclamation declaring February 24, 2016, “Leon C. Watkins Appreciation Day.” Watkins was instrumental in promoting diversity and inclusion of business in the nation’s airports.
“Leon’s wisdom, persistence, and his warm, approachable demeanor was the perfect equation to build relationships needed to create opportunities for women and minorities through AMAC,” commented DiDomizio. “As Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights in the Federal Aviation Administration in the 1980s, he understood the industry and what it would take to open doors.”
Watkins oversaw the new Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) Program, successfully overcoming the FAA’s enforcement of the regulations. He helped establish the first educational conference on airport DBE matters, which became known as the annual AMAC Business Diversity Conference, marking its 32nd anniversary in 2016.
He was one of the founders of the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) in 1984. AMAC is the only national, non-profit trade association advocating on behalf of minority-owned, women-owned, and DBE’s in airport business contracts and employment for the multi-billion dollar industry. AMAC’s premise is that there should be more minority and women-owned businesses in airports to mirror the communities and consumers they serve.
“We are delighted that the Hudson Group has honored one of our founders in this way,” says AMAC CEO and President Shelby Scales. “Hudson continues to solidify the strong and stable working relationship we have had for many years.”
Watkins also served as Hudson Group’s Director of Airport Relations for two decades, building relationships with key industry stakeholders to promote the leading travel retailer’s emphasis on diversity.
Courtney Thornton, Vice President of Partner Relations and Business Diversity, noted: “He is very intelligent, but it takes more than intelligence to be a trailblazer like Leon. You have to have passion and commitment as well. These are the unique characteristics he exhibited.”
Thanks in large part to Watkins, Hudson Group advances diversity in every aspect of its business, from its airport joint venture partnerships for retail concessions and construction projects to its merchandise vendors and employees themselves. For instance, there are roughly fifty DBE partners across North America. In 2014, Airport Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (ACDBE) participation represented 23 percent of the company’s total business. Its overall workforce is 80 percent minority, while the management team is 58 percent minority. In addition, Hudson Group requires participation in all construction bids from those who are disadvantaged, minority, or woman-owned business enterprises (D/M/WBE).
“Leon Watkins’ blueprint still impacts AMAC and the industry today," added Scales. “His work at FAA, Hudson, and many years of mentoring emerging colleagues such as myself are stellar examples of commitment to the mission. Whenever I have called on Mr. Watkins he has always given sound counsel and a history lesson.”