Highlander left out of airport parking bids

The owners of the Highlander Inn would be interested in continuing to provide the valet airport parking service that the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport would like replaced. But unless they can find a big national partner to team up with them, any bid the Highlander would submit wouldn’t even be allowed on the runway, much less permitted to fly.The airport bought the Highlander last month (in a deal expected to close in July) for $10 million. The airport plans to raze the hotel and shut down the parking service at the end of the year, leaving 70 people to look for other employment.The Morgan family put the Highlander up for sale because it wants to concentrate on its other real estate operations in Manchester, “though it was with some sadness on our part,” said Tom Morgan. The inn dated back 50 years and has been in the Morgan family since 1987. It also generated some $3.5 million in revenue, he said.But there is a possibility that something like Highlander’s valet parking service will continue. The airport would like – if economically feasible – to include a service similar to the valet service that the inn provides, albeit from a location closer to the terminal.The Highlander might be interested in applying for the job as well. But Morgan, who first read about the airport’s interest in providing the service on NHBR.com, wondered why the Highlander wasn’t contacted to place a bid.”It would have been good to evaluate whether we could meet their goals,” Morgan told NHBR. “We do have the infrastructure in place, the shuttles and the experience running such an operation. From a practical business standpoint, it might have made sense to see if we were interested.”But the parking service is being bid as a whole, not piecemeal, so any upgraded service would be part of a much larger operation, if indeed it is included at all.Valet parking “would be a very small component,” said J. Brian O’Neill, deputy airport director.Qualified bidders have had experience running such operations at airports at least as large as the parking operation Manchester-Boston, which has more than 11,000 parking spaces. The Highlander has no more than 800. The Highlander budget is about $1.5 million a year. The airport wants a firm that has handled operations more than 10 times that size: $18 million.The airport advertised the bids in the New Hampshire Union Leader and airport trade publications. It also solicited bids from well-known national firms that run such operations, including Central Parking, the airport’s current vendor. It didn’t contact the Highlander “because they aren’t close to qualifying,” O’Neill said.Once Morgan became aware of the bidding qualifications, he agreed that it would be “well beyond the scale and scope” of what the Highlander had in mind, and it “made sense” for the airport not to contact him. However, he said, the Highlander would “certainly entertain partnering with some of the other firms” in running that aspect of the operation.O’Neill said he wouldn’t rule that out.”We have had nothing but good relations with the Highlander park and fly. We’ve worked closely with them for years,” O’Neill said.The feeling, Morgan said, was mutual. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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