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Hartsfield-Jackson makes a major regional impact

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

MORROW — No matter how you look at it, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is big business.

The airport, which is run by the city of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation, was estimated in 2009 to have a $32.6 billion economic impact on the Atlanta region, said General Manager Louis Miller.

Miller said at the time the estimate was completed, 58,000 people worked at what routinely ranks as the world’s busiest airport and together, they earned about $16 billion in personal income.

Since then, the opening of the Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal has added another 2,000 jobs, Miller said.

“We’re definitely the largest employer in the southeast, if you looked at the airport as one employer,” he said.

Miller gave a presentation to Clayton County Chamber of Commerce members on what’s going on at the airport and what is planned for the future. Although the airport is run by Atlanta, most of it is located in northwest Clayton County.

If the economic impact figures aren’t staggering enough, Miller said Hartsfield-Jackson is projected to hit the 120 million-passengers per year mark by 2030. At present, about 95 million travelers pass through the airport annually, with an average of 250,000 per day. He added that about 80 percent of the U.S. population is located within a two-hour flight from Atlanta.

“We continue to see fewer smaller airplanes and more larger airplanes which is how we account for the larger number of passengers coming through the airport,” said Miller.

Airport officials are finishing up projects included in their $6.4 billion 1999 master plan update, which included the fifth runway, a new consolidated car rental facility and the international terminal.

Miller said the $46 million Concourse D Midpoint expansion project, which will add 58,000-square feet of new retail and concession space as well as additional elevators and escalators to the concourse, is expected to open later this month. A similar Concourse C Midpoint expansion project is about to begin and is expected to be completed in 2015, Miller said.

Other areas of the airport are being updated this summer, including the replacement of 38 escalators, 45 elevators and 16 moving sidewalks.

“The problem we have is that as we continue to build and expand things, we’ve got to keep everything operating,” said Miller. “You can’t come in and shut something down. You’ve got to keep it going so it takes us a while, but it’s going to be a great addition to the airport and make things much more efficient for moving people through those concourses.”

A $28 million, 100,000-square feet cargo facility is also expected to be built soon in the airport’s south cargo area.

Airport officials are working on updating reports on their economic impact on the area and Miller expects that study to be completed by the end of the year.

Officials are also in the process of putting together a new long-range strategic plan, called Navigate to 2030, which will establish short- and long-term goals for Hartsfield-Jackson.

“We’re going to look out 20 years and come back with five-year, 10-year and 20-year development programs,” said Miller.