Transportation, logistics provide impact for county

Clayton County may be part of metro Atlanta, but its presence extends far beyond that, said the county’s economic development director.

Clayton’s economic development and quality of life, as well as its position in transportation and logistics circles boost its influence to a worldwide level, according to Grant Wainscott.

The transportation and logistics industry is vitally important to the county, he said. “It is our single largest economic cluster,” he said, adding that the direct economic impact to the county is in excess of $100 million a year.

“It is at least 50 percent of our local economy,” said Wainscott, and has been the “primary economic driver in the county for decades; 30 years at least.”

The primary reasons for this, he said, are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Port of Savannah, the interstate and rail network that connects Clayton to the port.

Clayton is a jewel to this industry, because it has the world’s busiest airport in its own backyard, he said, and an active interstate system, nearby, which includes Interstates 75, 85, 285, 675 and 20.

Wainscott said transportation and logistics keep manufacturing facilities, such as Clorox and Fresh Express, alive and kicking in the county. “All these companies are employing people in this area,” he said. “It permeates every factor of our daily life.”

Other manufacturing facilities in the county include: Sara Lee, Toto USA and Sherwin-Williams, he added.

The county also houses distribution centers and warehouses, such as Shippers Warehouse in Jonesboro, which provides warehouse space to manufacturers. “Global companies all over the world send products to Shippers Warehouse,” he explained.

Hartsfield-Jackson is probably one of the primary economic drivers in the whole Southeast, he said. The airport has a very active air cargo-handling business that continues to grow, he added.

This is important for the county because the items emptied from the air cargo aircraft at Atlanta’s airport, are stored there or at nearby warehouses in Clayton, he said.

He said the new Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. International Terminal will make its debut in the spring, and will increase the international traffic flow and capacity of airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson. This will bring more cargo to Atlanta, and it’s anticipated that businesses related to transportation and logistics will increase in Clayton.

He said the belly of a passenger airplane not only holds luggage, but about 50 percent of the space is used for cargo. Therefore, an increase in international travel at Hartsfield-Jackson equals more business for Clayton, he said.

To top it all off, said Wainscott, the international terminal will be a great front door to the nation. This will have a ripple effect on the county with a direct economic benefit to its tourism industry, he said.

According to reports in the general media and business-oriented publications, the Panama Canal, in Panama, is undergoing a huge expansion project, scheduled for completion in 2014. Wainscott said the widening involved in that project will reduce by three or four weeks, the travel time for cargo ships.

That, he said, will almost surely mean more super-cargo container ships reaching the Port of Savannah and other ports in the eastern U.S., and the Gulf Coast.

“More cargo means merchandising companies, and more logistics in Clayton County,” said Wainscott. “More jobs and investment, and more quality of life.”

“Almost everything we buy, touch ... has to be moved,” said Wainscott.

He said Atlanta’s airport will host the world’s largest air cargo conference in 2012 –– the 26th Annual International Air Cargo Forum & Exposition 2012 –– put on by The International Air Cargo Association. Clayton County will have a strong presence there, he said, and make a strong impression.

“The more we can grow in air cargo, the more we can grow jobs and investment,” he explained. Clayton County Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph agrees, saying transportation and logistics create jobs in the county because businesses and companies relocate folks here.

“There are a lot of opportunities for us to grow,” he said.