Hartsfield task force focuses on economic growth

COLLEGE PARK — A group created to harness the airport as a catalyst for economic growth in the Southern Crescent led its kick-off meeting Friday with glowing presentations on community improvement districts, hinting at what the Hartsfield area’s future may hold.

“We think it’s at least worth throwing out and seeing what citizens and businesses think of it,” said Jon Tuley of the Atlanta Regional Commission, which helped facilitate the meeting at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “It could be a good direction to go in.”

Both South Fulton and Fulton Industrial Boulevard have used CIDs -- which allow groups of businesses to tax themselves to fund road, water and sewer improvements — to spruce up their neighborhoods and boost property values, thus setting the stage for economic growth.

Kent Walker of the Fulton Industrial CID described the process — which can fast-track improvements by cutting down government involvement — as “business people making business decisions in a quick, thoughtful manner.”

Emory Morsberger, who’s worked with CIDs in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, was more direct.

“They [businesses that tax themselves in a CID] are not doing it as a charity. It’s to put money back in their pocket,” he said, patting his wallet.

While the first meeting emphasized CIDs, Tuley said that they were only one of many options the group might consider.

“Maybe it’s related to a CID,” said Tuley. “Maybe it’s related to developing some transportation recommendations. Maybe it’s just thoughts on branding. Right now it’s very open-ended.”

Hartsfield ought to give the same economic lift to Atlanta’s south side that it’s given to the north side, he said.

“The reason why [Atlanta] is the hub of the South is because of the airport,” said Tuley. “If you take the airport away, there’s not a lot of different between us and other Southern cities like Charlotte, Birmingham and Nashville.”

Meeting participants, including government and civic leaders and area businessmen, followed the CID presentations with breakout groups where they brainstormed and later reported on their discussions.

Tuley said the results of those meetings of the mind would be compiled by the ARC and presented to the group at its next meeting, which has yet to be scheduled. Those results would form the basis of plans for the next few years.