Task force to plot how to harness Hartsfield

COLLEGE PARK — A group that wants to figure out how to tie the Southern Crescent’s economic fortunes to the strength of the world’s busiest airport will hold its first meeting Friday morning.

Organizers are hoping for faith — and maybe even a little magic.

“I want folks to believe, to believe that it’s possible to do things if we pull together,” said Douglas Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commision, one of several groups behind the Airport Area Taskforce. “There’s plenty to divide us, and Lord knows we can find that if we look for it.”

Kevin Gullette, Clayton County’s deputy economic development director, said that the sky would be the limit when it came to ideas for the first meeting.

“This meeting will be just to look at things from the 30,000-foot view,” he said. “If we were to wave a magic wand, what would you want the airport to look like?”

What most people hope for is for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to give Clayton County and the south side a sorely needed economic lift.

Hooker said that for now he’s heard “a lot of cautious hope” about the task force.

“I think there are a lot of people who are hopeful this will work,” Hooker said. “But they’ve seen efforts fail in the past.”

The ARC and several area chambers of commerce announced formation of the task force at a June conference near Hartsfield attended by more than 100 civic and business leaders. Many of those leaders expressed interest in serving on the task force and were invited to Friday’s meeting, to be held in College Park.

“It’s a good idea, if we can all work together,” said Ann Ray, executive director of the Airport Chamber of Commerce, one of the task force’s organizers. “If we can all work together, it will create good things for everyone, not just one municipality.”

Gullette said that he believed more than 120 people had been invited and that if “50 or 60 people show up we’d be tickled pink.”