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Businesses set to develop Hartsfield-Jackson’s surroundings

The amount of passengers coming through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tallied highest in the world last year.

Atlanta has retained its title as the world’s busiest airport for another year with 96 million passengers in 2014, making a total of 17 consecutive years at the top, according to a report by the Airports Council International (ACI).

However, the region surrounding Hartsfield-Jackson has fallen behind in development compared to the rest of the Atlanta metropolitan area, spurring local city governments, such as Hapeville and College Park, and business organizations who  want to promote growth in the area by encouraging commerce, according to Creative Loafing (CL).

The airport’s surrounding areas

Betul Kara, an international neuroscience masters student at Georgia State, flies through Hartsfield-Jackson when travelling back and forth from Turkey. She said when coming to Atlanta, she has never considered spending time in the smaller surrounding cities.  

“I’m not sure if it is safe. Since generally airports are away from the city center,” she said.

Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance (AAA), an organization aiming to create a economic district around the airport, is partnering with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), a regional planning agency for the 10-county Atlanta region. They plan to create a blueprint set on improving the area’s business, according to a spokesperson for the ARC.

Earlier this year,  Porsche opened a $100 million headquarters in Atlanta just north of Hartsfield-Jackson, according to CL. The plant is home to 100 new jobs, according to AAA. And other corporations like Kroger have followed suit by constructing near the airport.

Kroger is developing a two-million-square-foot regional distribution center at the former Fort Gillem Army Base, located slightly southeast of Porsche headquarters.

The ARC spokesperson Jim Jaquish said it is critical that through their partnership with AAA, they examine the area and take inventory of what is in place, since the surrounding area incorporates several counties and various cities

The ARC and AAA are trying to help make Atlanta’s various governments work together, though some communities may not see the payoffs for years.

“The big idea is to help everyone in the long run,” the ARC spokesperson said.

Stuart Gulley, a Community Improvement District board member from College Park, said the organization aims to enhance security and community aesthetics, and believes the promotion of businesses could correlate to cultural growth.

He also said the impact Hartsfield-Jackson has on the surrounding community is enormous due to the jobs it provides.  

The world’s busiest airport employs more than 63,000 people in the community, according to USA Today.

The epicenter of Atlanta’s culture

Ryan Gravel, creator of the consultancy firm Sixpitch and the Atlanta Beltline mastermind, doesn’t believe that just any business would have a direct influence on cultural life. For him, it is about the people and how they interact with the airport.

“Businesses that harness or prompt that interaction contribute more to the life of the city,” he said. “Porsche is an excellent example because it leverages the unique opportunities of the airport to create something new and exciting for the city.”

Katie Trebendis, a Georgia State alumni and Delta flight attendant, said the airport’s peak times were during the summer months when kids were out of school and people had more time for leisure travel.

“I can recall numerous days when the lines for security would stretch all the way back toward the MARTA station and back down the hallways, at one point even having to be routed through and wrapped around the baggage claim carousels,” she said.

Kara said she wouldn’t leave the airport’s area quickly if it’s surrounding cities had something more notable to offer.

“Something special for Atlanta. A place I can buy something that is special here,” she said.

Gravel said the airport region needs to create a public interface that gives us a reason to go there, even if we don’t have an airplane ticket.

“We know we have this great portal to the world, but other than business, we have spent very little time exploring its potential for cultural and social contributions,” he said.


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