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Airport area economic development group announced

COLLEGE PARK — Nearly half of Clayton County could see an economic boost from a new group designed to spur growth around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, regional business and government officials announced Friday.

The Atlanta Regional Commission unveiled the Aerotropolis Alliance during a press conference at the airport. The alliance is a new effort that is designed to bring various government, business and education groups together to work on economic development issues facing the area around the airport.

Its focus area will stretch from Fort McPherson in the north, to the northern edges of Jonesboro, and from East Point in the west to Fort Gillem in the east. It will also stretch southwest from the Union Station Mall, and includes the Mt. Zion Road corridor in Morrow.

“Hartsfield-Jackson is more than just the busiest airport in the world,” said ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong. “It is an absolutely critical cog in metro Atlanta’s economy. The region has tremendous opportunity to attract global companies and increase the amount and the quality of development around our airport through the formation of this new alliance.”

Among the announcements at Friday’s press conference was an explanation of the alliance’s goals, purpose and function, the unveiling of board members and discussions about other airports which have followed the aerotropolis model.

The “aerotropolis” idea has been around for several years as local officials have tried to find a way to use the airport as an economic generator for the southside.

“An aerotropolis is a community that grows up around an airport with the airport being the economic heart of that community,” said ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish. “The idea being that by encouraging more development around the airport, we can really boost the entire region.”

Paperwork released at the press conference showed examples of the model can be found in Amsterdam, Paris, Seoul, Dubai and Dallas. ARC officials said there are more than 1,000 firms located in the aerotropolis at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

There are 58,000 people employed at Hartsfield-Jackson, according to airport officials. The airport, long referred to as the “world’s busiest,” sees about 94.4 million passengers pass through its gates annually, according to airport statistics.

Airport officials also boast on their website a roughly $32.5 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

“Today’s aerotropolis meeting is an important step forward in maintaining our position as the dominant economic generator for the region,” said Hartsfield-Jackson interim General Manager Miguel Southwell. “While this airport has grown our passenger service, air cargo capabilities and global businesses opportunities, we are also a vital part of the communities around us.”

The alliance was organized by the ARC as a way to bring local entities together to build upon those attributes.

Among the participants in the alliance announced Friday were Hartsfield-Jackson, Clayton County government, the county’s chamber of commerce and officials from Porsche, Georgia Power, College Park and Delta Air Lines.

But Jaquish added there are several more partners in the endeavor that cut across different areas of the community, including local governments, business and education. Other partners in the Alliance include Fulton County, Hapeville, East Point, the Camp Creek Parkway Improvement Association, Invest Atlanta, Duke Realty Corp., Grove Street Partners, Prologis, the Metro Atlanta, Airport Area and South Fulton chambers of commerce and Woodward Academy.

The alliance will be a 501c(6) nonprofit organization that will be overseen by a 20-member board made up of local business and education leaders as well as government representatives.

Porsche Cars North America General Counsel Joe Folz will be the board’s chairman. Georgia Power Vice-President of Community and Economic Development Pedro Cherry will be the vice-chairman.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to build upon the asset of having the world’s busiest airport to pursue development of our world class aerotropolis,” said Folz.

Local officials on the alliance’s board include Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner, Chamber of Commerce President Yulonda Beauford, College Park Mayor Jack Longino and Hartsfield-Jackson interim General Manager Miguel Southwell.

The regional commission has set up a website, www.atlantaaerotropolis.org, to explain the concept and the alliance’s work to the public.

Read the April 2 edition of Clayton News Daily and check www.news-daily.com for further details about how the alliance’s formation will impact Clayton County.