A tight-knit group of minority- and women-owned airport entrepreneurs in Charlotte, NC, are having a major impact of the lives of young people interested in careers in the airport industry. Over the past five years, the “Charlotte DBEs” have contributed more than $50,000 for AMAC scholarships.
“These DBEs in Charlotte truly exemplify the AMAC mission, says Molly King, AMAC Foundation program manager. “They are inclusive and supportive of fellow DBEs, they’ve been active in AMAC for years, and with little fanfare, they have provided significant scholarship funds.”
“We’re an informal group,” says Keith Haywood, of FDY Inc., a food and beverage concessionaire at a number of airports including the Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CDIA). “We don’t have a president or board, or any real structure; we just want to help each other out, and give something back.”
The business owners came together after the death of Bernard Johnson, the owner of SB&J Enterprises. Johnson, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at age 67, was the first minority-owned concessionaire at the Charlotte airport in 1982. His daughters and wife continued to operate the business.
“He was a generous and unselfish man who had been contributing to scholarships at AMAC for years,” said Haywood. “He was responsible for mentoring and giving a hand-up to many of us who dreamt of doing business at CDIA.”
The first major gift of scholarship money by the Charlotte DBEs was made in his name.
In 2010, Deitra Benton, president of airport DBE Denard Enterprises, died suddenly at a young age. Deitra was the daughter of PJ Benton, who had established the family-owned business, and who had been in the food and beverage industry for more than 28 years. Her death followed her daughter’s unexpectedly in 2013.
The Charlotte DBEs were devastated by these deaths that came so quickly in so short a period, said Haywood. “But it only made us more determined to continue the legacy of these entrepreneurs who believed firmly in giving others a chance to do well. When we get together to make our scholarship contributions, nobody blinks. We just reach for our check books,” he notes with a smile.
Today the scholarship benefactors include the following CDIA businesses: SB&J Enterprises; Denard Enterprises; FDY, Inc.; Great Food Services, Inc.; Ewing-Dunn, Inc.; Geathers Enterprises; Charlotte’s Landing, Inc.; Susan Druckman, Inc.; and Withman May Enterprises.