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Economic study confirms airport paying its way

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's status as the chief economic engine for Georgia has been boosted by a Economic Impact Study produced by planning and consulting agencies, and airport officials.

Direct business revenue to metropolitan Atlanta has increased by nearly 40 percent since 2005, according to the airport's 2009 Economic Impact Study released in a press conference on Tuesday. The airport generated $32.6 billion in 2009, compared to $23.5 billion, in 2005, according to Al Snedeker, the airport's capital improvement program public relations manager.

Shelley Lamar, planning manager for community and land use planning and development at Hartsfield-Jackson, said the study includes 28 metro counties.

When asked how the airport impacted Clayton County, and the Southern Crescent, economically, in 2009, Lamar said the study does not separate most results.

However, it did include the number of jobs dependent on the airport's activity in several counties. In 2009, the airport created 5,726 direct jobs for Clayton County, and 5,262 direct jobs for Henry County, according to the study. Moreover, the study said the airport generated 58,000 direct jobs in the metro area, a slight increase from 56,500 direct jobs in 2005, said Snedeker.

There were a total of 434,400 airport-related jobs (direct and indirect) in the metro region in 2009, an 11 percent increase from the 393,100 total in 2005.

State-wide, 506,830 jobs were attributed to the airport –– directly or indirectly –– in 2009, which is an increase from 473,000 in 2005.

"Hartsfield-Jackson continues to be the dominant economic generator for metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia," said Robert Kennedy, interim aviation general manager at the airport. "Airport jobs paid more than $4.3 billion in wages in 2009."

"The study credited the airport's increased economic impact to higher passenger volumes, and to longer stays, and more spending by visitors," said Snedeker, in a written statement.

The study, which is done approximately every four years, was conducted by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston, and CH2M Hill, a consulting agency, in association with the Hartsfield Planning Collaborative, said Snedeker.

In a press release earlier in the day, Katena Carvajales, media relations manager at the airport, announced that Asiana Airlines will join Hartsfield-Jackson on Sept. 13, making it the airport's 14th all-cargo carrier service. It will operate four weekly flights to Seoul, South Korea.

Interim Aviation General Manager Kennedy said that this year, from January, to May, the amount of cargo handled at Hartsfield-Jackson increased 20 percent.

"We welcome Asiana Airlines to Atlanta, knowing their presence will further expand local companies' global access to markets and customers," added Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

"The addition of Asiana Airlines reflects the continuing growth we are seeing in cargo operations at Hartsfield-Jackson, providing global shippers with easier connectivity to the world," the mayor said.

Asiana Airlines is expected to produce up to 25 new direct jobs, an annual economic impact of $24 million for the region, and many additional, indirect positions, Reed said.

He said that one of his signature goals is to expand cargo operations at Hartsfield-Jackson, because cargo services provide a welcome layer of job opportunities, including blue collar, white collar, and managerial jobs.

"I think it is healthy for the airport ... to run at its highest capacity," said Reed.

Atlanta is the state's logistics hub, said Carvajales, and the airport offers a geographically desirable location for cargo carriers and freight forwarders interested in expanding their global networks, at lower operating costs.

"Asiana Airlines is proud to call the City of Atlanta home and add Hartsfield-Jackson to our global operations network," said Hyung Park, the Atlanta regional manager for Asiana Airlines. "Our cargo hub in Georgia will give companies, such as Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor Company and others in the Southeastern region, direct access to customers worldwide, including connectivity to South America."

During the press conference, Mayor Reed also touted the airport's honor in receiving the Global and North America Airport Efficiency Excellence Award –– in the large airport category –– from the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS).

The award recognizes the airport for its world leadership in efficiency, for the eighth year in a row, he said.

The award was announced on July 7, at the 14th Air Transport Research Society world conference, in Porto, Portugal, according to Carvajales.