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7 Crucial Conversations for Airports Hiring a Program Manager

May 30, 2024

How do airports benefit from hiring an owner’s representative? Site selection, project team procurement, construction auditing – your needs during a capital expenditure program can be as varied as the projects are complex. When you have major investments, a need for speed-to-market, and a reputation at stake, minimizing risk and maximizing return are table stakes. That’s where an owner’s representative or a program manager thrives. A program manager offers many benefits to airports, including clear timelines, streamlined communication, and, perhaps best of all, peace of mind. With the right program manager in place, you can focus on and achieve overall project success and maintain a strategic approach for your investment without having to dig into the details. 

But how do you choose the right owner’s rep/program manager for your project? To help you navigate through the noise, we’ve compiled our list of the top seven questions to ask when hiring a firm to represent you during the planning, design, and construction process in the U.S. so you can find that right fit. 

1. Do you understand U.S. and local building codes and regulations for permitting? 

Why it’s important: national and local codes and regulations are complex. While they are designed to specify minimum requirements related to health, safety, and the welfare of building occupants, they can be challenging to comprehend fully. An experienced program manager will help you navigate these requirements through careful planning, ultimately allowing you to avoid common pitfalls.

2. Do you have a thorough understanding of the factors that will drive the budget, such as labor and materials?

Why it’s important: As the market booms, U.S. labor forces remain stretched, forcing the cost of labor to increase. The same is true with materials pricing, as across the board we are seeing a rise in the cost of materials (e.g., steel). An established program manager should know the market trends and local workforce, thereby helping you mitigate the impacts on your budget and realize success. 

Why it’s important: As we see material and labor costs rising, innovative solutions like AI/machine learning or virtual reality/augmentation are being used to offset the strain on the workforce and budget. The best program managers will know that keeping up with emerging trends and tools is important to maximizing your ROI. 

4. Do you have an advocate that can be your boots-on-the-ground resource?v

Why it’s important: There is great value in engaging an experienced partner with trained eyes and ears who understands the local design and construction community as well as the industry. A program manager who already has established relationships can more easily act as a facilitator throughout the project, providing you with the confidence you need to ensure you are safeguarding your investment. By hiring the right program manager, you can maximize your attention to other endeavors and responsibilities and remove any barriers that may come between you and success. 

5. Do you understand the various delivery models?

Why it’s important: An effective program manager will help you consider your options (Progressive Design-Build, CM-at-Risk, Design-Build, Integrated Project Delivery, etc.). Choosing the option that is best suited for how you do business is paramount to managing risk and creating a cohesive team approach. Plus, understanding the terms and conditions of your contracts helps ensure the project is delivered without an interruption in expectations. In particular, the Progressive Design-Build delivery model has become increasingly attractive to airports as it allows the owner to have more input into the overall design of the facility, manage costs in a proactive manner, and achieve substantial schedule benefits. An airport can significantly benefit by hiring a program manager that has experience not only in managing a Progressive Design-Build project but managing the construction of airport terminals utilizing the Progressive Design-Build delivery model.  

6. Do you have the capacity for this project?

Why it’s important: You need to know if the PM team has time to take on a capital project and manage the day-to-day details. This direct question gives firms an opportunity to recognize their potential distractions and request help in adopting a speed-to-market mentality. Through clear communication from the beginning, you can find a program manager who will study the way you work, help you manage decision-making through the chain of command, and put pressure at given points so you can meet your goals and mitigate your risk in the process. 

7. Do you understand what construction activities are eligible for your funding/grants, and do you know when you will need to have the funding available/on hand?

Why it’s important: To ensure that your project is maximizing the funding opportunities available, it is imperative to know what types of activities are eligible for specific funding sources/grants in order to prevent ineligible expenditures from being paid directly from the airport funds. Further, it is critical to understand the anticipated cash flow for the project in order to proactively ensure that money is on hand as invoices are received.

As a leading program management firm with a history stretching back to the 1940s, we know how to act as true advocates for our clients, helping airport owners complete their projects faster and for a better price. From coast to coast, HPM has managed more than $12 billion and audited over $30 billion in construction value during our 25-year history of program management work.

Interested in learning more? Contact Us today!

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