By Maria-Jose Subiria
The rental car center at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport just turned a year old, and has already driven economic growth to neighboring businesses, according to a spokesman for the airport.
Albert Snedeker said the growth has directly effected the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC), in College Park, because it is connected to the rental car center, via the ATL SkyTrain, an elevated automated people mover.
This connection has made the GICC a national and international player among its competitors, he said. "The rental car center has changed their [GICC] business model," added Snedeker.
"In its first year of operation, the ATL SkyTrain has already proven to have a positive impact on our business," said Hugh Austin, executive director of the Georgia International Convention Center, in a prepared statement. "We are finishing this calendar year with revenue increases in spite of the sluggish economy. With our two new Marriott hotels now open, we are a very unique and much more desirable meeting destination. Being directly connected to the busiest and best-run airport in the world, we offer our clients a new level of convenience."
Furthermore, said Barbra Coffee, director of economic development for the City of College Park, the economic growth has spilled over to the Gateway Center, which consists of the GICC, Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway, SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway and Gateway Center One, a 130,000-square-foot office building.
"It [rental car center] has been extremely important and a great promotional tool," said Coffee, who added that the ATL SkyTrain provides passengers with a scenic view of the Gateway Center, which also attracts visitors there. Traffic has increased, she said.
"As they [passengers] go see [ the variety] of hotels there ... many of them stop and change their plans ... Those two hotels are at the top of their class, performing upwards of 70 percent in occupancy" said Coffee. Gateway Center One is 35 percent leased, with its first and second floors almost tapped out, she said.
There are international and aviation-related businesses housed there, Coffee said, adding that, eventually, the Gateway Center will have a second phase, which will include some retail and restaurant venues.
The Gateway Center is located in Clayton County, she said, but the City of College Park has also benefited from the growth. "Our entire city benefits," she said. "We have wonderful restaurants downtown. We've seen an increase in flow during lunch time at those facilities."
Airport spokesman Snedeker said since the rental car center's opening, on Dec. 8, 2009, more than 1.5 million vehicles have been rented at the facility, which is nearly a 7-percent increase over 2008.
Passengers who board the ATL SkyTrain from the airport are in for a five-minute ride to the rental car center. The ride includes an in-between stop at the Gateway Center.
The automated people mover makes the trip nearly 500 times a day, and has traveled more than 465,500 miles since it began to provide service to passengers, he said. The ATL SkyTrain has provided service to more than 3.4 million travelers to, and from, the rental car center, since it opened.
"Everything I've heard from customers and the rental car agencies indicates that Hartsfield-Jackson's rental car center is a huge success," added Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. "This capital infrastructure investment will pay dividends for our passengers for many years to come."
Snedeker said the rental car center has also benefited rental car companies by making their business more efficient at Atlanta's airport, including the consolidation of their operations and no more payments for remote parking lots.
The rental car center is the second major capital construction project to be completed at the airport through the facility's 10-year, $6 billion capital development program.
"The final major capital project to be completed will be the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal," said Snedeker. "Construction is scheduled to be complete in spring 2012 on the international terminal, and its 12-gate concourse."