Updated at 2:30 p.m. to include response from Kansas City councilman Jermaine Reed.
With the contract for a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport seemingly up for grabs, Los Angeles-based AECOM on Monday added local engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to its KCI Partnership team.
Although Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate was selected by city council for the billion-dollar terminal, the council on Thursday rejected a memorandum of understanding setting out terms for the project.
The council could vote this week to cut ties with Edgemoor. That would open the door for KCI Partnership, which was the council's second choice to design, build and finance a new single-terminal.
"With the addition of Burns and McDonnell to the KCI Partnership team, we now have the two top aviation design-build firms in the country working together on this project," says Mike Handelman, Senior Vice President at AECOM.
The two firms weren't always so friendly — during the bidding process AECOM accused the selection committee of moving the goalposts to give Burns and McDonnell an advantage. Burns and McDonnell's Ron Coker says that's just the nature of competition.
"We have no worries that we can not be great partners together," Coker says.
Handelman says KCI Partnership would develop a community benefits package worth $15 million and invest $75 million over 30 years into a KCI Legacy Fund to provide capital to minority, women and small businesses.
One of the council's biggest issues with Edgemoor's MOU was that the firm wasn't investing sufficiently in the community and that their goals for hiring minority and women-owned businesses fell short.
"Their commitment was very, very shallow in terms of community benefits," says Kelvin Perry of the Black Chember of Commerce.
AECOM says it will aim for 30 to 33 percent minority business participation in the project, and pay all contractors within five days.
Handelman acknowledges that the future is still uncertain. City officials could choose to continue negotiating with Edgemoor on a new MOU.
"We just want to make sure everyone knows we're ready to go, we will not miss a step and the schedule will be met," Handelman says.
In a statement, councilman Jermaine Reed said Monday's announcement is premature.
"There's no need for anyone — whether it be Burns & McDonnell or AECOM — to mount a public campaign for the project until our negotiations with Edgemoor are completely resolved," Reed said.
Edgemoor's managing director, Geoff Stricker, says his firm remains committed to the project and is willing to work out a deal with the city.
“We’re confident we can continue the great collaboration we’ve had with the city so far moving forward to the delivery of a new terminal,” Stricker says.
The city council's airport committee will debate the issue on Thursday.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.