Founding members gathered at the airport Friday to announce the alliance, a 501(c)6 organization funded by members, including $65,000 in seed money from the Clayton County Development Authority and Georgia Power, to make the travel hub a destination of its own. Doug Hooker, executive director of alliance member Atlanta Regional Commission, said “aerotropolis” is a “fancy name for a fairly simple concept – ‘airport city,’” in which development occurs in a “thoughtful,” not haphazard, manner.
“And before anybody gets worried about it, no, we’re not trying to establish a new city with a new mayor,” he said.
Neither is the concept at odds with community improvement districts, speakers said.
“We’re not trying to steal business from anywhere in metro Atlanta. We’re trying to steal business from other states,” said alliance chair and Porsche Cars North America attorney Joe Folz.
Speakers at last week’s announcement said aerotropolis concepts exist in Amsterdam, Paris and Dubai.
They presented a map in which the proposed Atlanta version, of about 130 square miles, includes Union Station and Southlake malls and forts McPherson and Gillem.
College Park Mayor Jack Longino said the city on the airport’s western border will “set the tone” for the effort.
“In years to come, you won’t recognize it,” he said about improvements within five to 10 years. Longino took a dig at top-end Perimeter traffic, noting Porsche chose south Fulton for its new U.S. headquarters, slated to open in the first quarter of 2015.
“I believe it is traffic-driven. I think 20 years ago, Porsche would have decided to go north. But because of the traffic thing, they have picked to be close [to the airport],” he said.
Pedro Cherry, Georgia Power vice president of community and economic development and the alliance’s vice-chair, said its first steps will be to create a strategic plan by the end of the year and begin the plan’s execution in the first quarter of 2015.
The alliance will also cultivate the opportunity to hold a business development conference within two years but possibly as early as spring. “The first thing you have to do is have product,” Cherry said about land for Class A office space and corporate headquarters. “South of the airport, product is abundant.”
According to the alliance, the airport serves about 250,000 passengers a day and is directly responsible for more than 50,000 jobs.
“Hartsfield-Jackson is more than just the busiest airport in the world,” commission chair Kerry Armstrong said in a statement. “It is an absolutely critical cog in the metro Atlanta economy.”
South Fulton alliance board members include Delta Airlines attorney Kali Beyah, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, Woodward Academy President Stuart Gulley, Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman, East Point Mayor Jannquell Peters, Natalie Tyler Martin of the Camp Creek Parkway Improvement Association, Shelley Lamar of the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce and Dyan Matthews of the South Fulton Chamber of Commerce.