Hartsfield-Jackson: Airport City?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Ever heard of an aerotropolis? Well, picture Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and its environs as a city, with hotels, businesses, entertainers and whatever any vibrant community might offer. An alliance has been formed to make it happen. Today, a Porsche executive explains the initiative, while a UNC professor who coined the term explains the significance of an airport city to the region. Finally, an Asian diplomat encourages stronger trade, investment and collaborative ties between Atlanta and Taiwan.

Hartsfield to be “airport city”

By Joseph Folz

Everyone knows Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the world’s busiest. It serves 250,000 travelers and moves 2,000 metric tons of freight daily. It is Georgia’s economic engine, directly responsible for more than 50,000 jobs and indirectly responsible for thousands more.

Passenger and cargo traffic is increasing dramatically. Hartsfield-Jackson’s positive impact will continue growing. We need to use the airport’s power to deliver maximum economic benefit and prepare it to power Georgia’s economy for decades. It makes sense to use this asset to generate development in surrounding communities.

Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance members are committed to creating a community around the airport that will attract corporate headquarters, businesses, retail, and housing. Development will improve the lives of everyone in adjacent communities. Places with less to offer than metro Atlanta have used airports as anchors for thriving communities. Our airport is bigger, better and closer to our city. Its neighbors need and want  jobs.

The seeds of the Alliance were planted during the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Fifty Forward visioning effort. Participants all cited the importance of development around Hartsfield-Jackson. That idea was incorporated into ARC’s PLAN 2040. ARC engaged local governments, chambers of commerce, businesses and others in the airport vicinity to build support. Now, we have an organization to help develop an aerotropolis with Hartsfield-Jackson as its centerpiece.

Our aerotropolis is further along than some might think. Delta Air Lines, Chick-fil-A and other companies have their headquarters near the airport; Porsche is proud to join them there. There will be redevelopment not only at the old Ford plant site, but also a logistics hub at Fort Gillem and new airport hotels with promises of more to come. The Aerotropolis Alliance will bring local government and business leaders to the same table. Together, we will create a vibrant business hub and gateway to the region.

Alliance members have identified several goals. We will enhance aesthetics, branding and safety around the airport and in nearby communities by improving signage, cleaning up roadways and so on. Funding will come from members and, potentially, from the new Airport West Community Improvement District and other CIDs that will be formed. The Alliance will sponsor an international airport development conference that will attract hundreds of global airport and development professionals to see the potential power of an aerotropolis in metro Atlanta.

Morevoer, the Alliance will create a blueprint for development and a marketing strategy to attract high-wage technology, manufacturing, cargo and logistics companies. Government and business leaders know development in any area near the airport will improve the quality of life in all of them.

Our commitment to better amenities and more livable communities will attract more top companies to the area. Porsche is excited about the opportunities in our new neighborhood. We are confident the entire region will support the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance.

Joseph Folz is general counsel and secretary for Porsche Cars North America.

Aerotropolis: a new kind of development

By John Kasarda

A new strategic approach to airport-area development that enhances business and metropolitan competitiveness is gaining prominence around the world. This is the aerotropolis model.

Simply put, an aerotropolis is a metropolitan sub-region whose infrastructure, land use, and economy are centered on an airport. Its primary value is that it offers businesses speedy connectivity to their suppliers, customers and enterprise partners nationally and worldwide, hence increasing both corporate and regional efficiency. Aerotropolis firms, many in high-tech and advanced business service sectors, are often more dependent on distant suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners than those located in their own metropolitan region.

The aerotropolis helps them cut costs, increase productivity, and expand market reach, thereby becoming more competitive. Regional trade in higher-value goods and services is broadened through expanding international airline routes. These routes operate as a “physical Internet,” moving products and people quickly around the world.

Airports are the routers of aviation’s physical Internet. Their dual roles as airline routers and global-local interfaces make airports business magnets and economic catalysts as they attract, sustain and grow aviation-oriented firms. The aerotropolis also contains logistics and commercial facilities that support aviation-enabled businesses, cargo and travelers. These include freight forwarders, third-party logistics concerns and warehouse and distribution facilities; hotels, recreation, wellness, convention and exhibition complexes; office buildings, and shopping, dining, leisure, entertainment and tourism venues.

The aerotropolis services whose executives and professionals frequently travel to distant sites or bring in their clients by air. Included here are firms in such sectors as auditing, architecture, engineering, consulting, international finance, marketing and media.

Corporate headquarters functions are moving to airport-area office complexes or using airport-area hotels so executives can fly in for meetings. This optimizes long- distance connectivity while minimizing local ground transport times and costs.

With increases in the aviation-oriented businesses and commercial service providers clustering around airports, these areas are becoming urban growth centers where air travelers and locals work, shop, meet, exchange knowledge, conduct business, eat, sleep and enjoy entertainment without going more than 15 minutes from the terminals.

Gateway airports are shaping business location and urban economic development as much in the 21st century as highway exchanges did in the 20th, rail in the 19th, and ports in the 18th. Their impact is becoming wider and deeper, locally and globally.

Atlanta, despite having the world’s busiest airport, has not fully capitalized on its remarkable physical Internet. Thus, it has lagged behind other gateway airport areas in aerotropolis development.

This is about to change. City and regional leaders recognize Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s potential to become a more powerful business magnet and regional economic accelerator. The Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance was launched in March to transform the area around Hartsfield-Jackson into a world-class aerotropolis.

Done right, a major aerotropolis holds significant promise to catapult Atlanta as a top-tier global region like London, New York, and Tokyo. But it will take more than vision and planning. It will take immense coordinated actions.

John Kasarda is a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Improve trade with Taiwan

By Huei-Yuan Steven Tai

Taiwan and Georgia have a history of friendly, mutually beneficial relations. Atlanta and Taipei have enjoyed a 30-year sister-city relationship.

Business exchanges between our two cities include investment, trade and Taiwanese companies with headquarters in Atlanta. Last year, trade between Taiwan and Georgia came to $1.7 billion; Georgia exports to Taiwan increased 5 percent.

I take great interest in Atlanta’s economic and cultural landscape, and would like to put forth some observations and suggestions regarding its position as a global city.

Atlanta is a major transportation hub with the world’s busiest airport. Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport has a history of cooperation with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Taiwan’s China Airlines and EVA Airlines operate cargo flights weekly from Atlanta. China Airlines and Delta have a code-share agreement; Delta’s planes in Taiwan are maintained by EVA’s maintenance crew.

As part of the “Taoyuan Aerotropolis” plan, Taoyuan will greatly improve and expand. Atlanta-area airport officials might benefit from an exchange of ideas with Taoyuan planners.

Atlanta also benefits from proximity to the Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-busiest container port. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is set to deepen the port to enhance its ability to serve larger vessels. Taiwanese shipping companies Evergreen America Corp. and Yang Ming (America) Corp. account for one-tenth of the Savannah harbor’s trade volume.

Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Harbor, Taiwan’s largest and 13th in the world, is another port with expansion plans. Personnel from the two ports could help each other by sharing engineering plans, innovations, problems and solutions.

Although Atlanta is a major railroad hub, it is also known for heavy car traffic and long commutes. MARTA does not have extensive routes to  the suburbs. Taipei has a highly efficient rapid transit system that, in 2013, carried an average of 1.78 million travelers daily, and serves outlying towns. Taipei has 11 lines in its transportation network and is expanding. Perhaps Atlanta could learn from Taipei’s example in pursuit of expanding MARTA services.

The vibrant trade between the U.S. and Taiwan, and Atlanta and Taipei, can be improved by Taiwan’s inclusion in various free trade agreements.

Kin Moy, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has said the United States welcomes Taiwan’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Membership would enhance Taiwan’s contributions to global economics and benefit trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement has been Taiwan’s main channel for strengthening trade and investment links between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Twelve American states have trade offices in Taiwan. I encourage Georgia to open a state trade office in Taiwan. My government would be honored to host delegations from the administrations of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal. Such trips would provide an excellent opportunity to discuss further investment and trade between our cities, Georgia and Taiwan.

Huei-Yuan Steven Tai is director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta.




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