Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Houston Airport System Helps Its Community Soar

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

The Houston Airport System (HAS) is a network of three airports - George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, and Ellington Airport, serving the city’s over 5 million residents. 

Its mission is to “provide a safe and dynamic air services network that fosters economic vitality for the transportation industry and the greater Houston region.”

Rhonda Arnold, Director of Community Relations in External Affairs Division for City of Houston Department of Aviation, would like Houstonians to know more about HAS’ efforts of promoting and educating the community.

“It is our endeavor to provide a positive impact on the quality of life for Greater Houston and Southeast Texas Region
 and we need the community to thrive,” said Arnold, who has worked with the system since 2009.  “As part of our Strategic Plan we must continue to build a better future.”

Rhonda Arnold of Houston Airport System (HAS)
speaks to high school students during a
Career Day event
Photo Courtesy of Houston Airport System

To accomplish this goal, the department develops and maintains positive, collaborative relationships with business communities, area chambers of commerce, local government, economic development agencies and community organizations in the greater Houston area.


In addition to Mrs. Arnold, Darian Ward, Community Relations Associate and Assistant Public Information Officer, and Mary McKnight, Senior Community Relations Liaison are also members of the dedicated and hardworking Community Relations Department for Houston Airports.

Last year more than 49.5 million passengers traveled through Bush and Hobby, including more than 8.5 million international travelers. The system forms one of North America's largest public airport systems, as well as positions Houston as the international passenger and cargo gateway to the south central United States and a primary gateway to Latin America.

Mrs. Arnold said HAS recognizes its prominence in the travel and aviation community, as well as its ability to serve as an example to others in the industry. The three key philanthropic areas of focus for the Houston Airport System are education, small businesses, and the environment.

“We partner with Houston Independent School District, Aldine Independent School District and Houston Works, Incorporated to raise awareness of community participation and careers in aviation,” Mrs. Arnold said.

To date, the Community Relations Department participated in 43 Career Days and 9 tour-related activities. HAS also supports small business development in the area, which is a sector of increased importance in this economy.

“One of the many things we do to support small businesses is work closely with the Office of  Business Opportunities to support the development of a sustainable pool of Houston-based MWBE Outreach,” she said. “We have also participated in the Runway to Business Opportunities event , and the Government Procurement Connections conference which introduces bidding opportunities available for certified small businesses.”

Houston Airport System's Rhonda Arnold (center)
poses with a local Boy Scout troop after facilitating an
aviation education session

Photo courtesy of Houston Airport System
Mrs. Arnold said one of the most important programs that she collaborates with is the Combined Municipal Campaign (CMC), which is a program to engage airport employees and the general community to contribute to non-profit, charitable organizations. The Houston Airport System holds several community events that support this initiative. 

“During the 2010 contribution year, the Houston Airport System was recognized as raising the most funds of all City of Houston departments,” she said. 

This year the Director of Aviation, Mario C. Diaz, is serving as the co-chair of CMC for the entire City of Houston. Along with Ms. Gabrielle Dirden, the liaison of CMC for HAS, Mrs. Arnold hopes that the local aviation system will continue to be a leader with the campaign for years to come.  

There are three signature events slated for 2012, the Endurance Run to be held at Bush Intercontinental; the 911 Heroes Run and Aeros & Autos are highly-anticipated events, both are held annually at Ellington Airport. The Aeros & Autos event benefits the United Service Organizations (USO) and showcases prized autos along with military and private planes. 

In addition to its charitable giving and volunteerism programs, Arnold said Houston Airport System is implementing measures to protect the environment as well.

“We are very cognizant of the importance of the green initiatives, so we work closely with area schools and chambers with activities to support these efforts,” she said. “In addition to assisting the Humble Clean Up Day with Nimitz High School, last year we launched the more environmentally-conscious Ecopark shuttle service at Bush Airport.”

  Energy-efficient shuttles for the
Bush Intercontinental Airport's Ecopark
Economy Parking Lot
The shuttles run on compressed natural gas (CNG). The vehicles were made available due to a partnership between the Houston Airport System (HAS) and Houston-based energy giant Apache Corporation in an effort to support the City of Houston’s Green Initiative, which aims to reduce particulate matter and green house gas. The buses transport an estimated 676,000 people, operate more than 1 million miles annually and reduce fuel costs by an estimated $2 per gallon.

The 20-year community leader said her work with HAS is fueled by her genuine passion for giving back, and also allows her to express her personal beliefs about philanthropy.

“My philosophy is 'pay it forward by enriching others and you, too, will find happiness'.”

To learn more about the community programs implemented by Houston Airport System, visit the Fly2Houston website

Video of the Houston Airport Systems September 11, 2011 Heroes Run at Ellington Airport:


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