Council for Quality Growth Meeting Highlights Georgia’s Economic Engines

Tal Wright

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

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The Council for Quality Growth, whose members include key Georgia and metro Atlanta business leaders, hosted its 34th Annual Meeting Dec. 6 at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North.

“As the Council for Quality Growth celebrates its 34th anniversary, I can’t help but be proud of the role the organization has played in the region’s growth and success,” said Michael Paris, President and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth.

“While the Council has expanded what we do in breadth and depth over the years, we’ve stayed true to the organization’s original model to forge decisions on complicated and controversial growth issues in an effort to reach consensus and move forward productively,” he added.

The meeting was sponsored by Georgia Power.

Paul Corley, regional president of Empire Communities, was elected as Board Chairman for 2020.

State Senator Brandon Beach, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, as well as Chairman of the Joint Commission on Freight Logistics, noted that there are three key economic engines in State: The Port of Savannah, The World Congress Center, and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In 2018, the World Congress Center broke ground on a project that added a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and its leaders voted to double the overall bonding capacity from $200 million to $400 million, a portion of which was invested in a luxury high-rise hotel.

“There’s a direct correlation between economic development and infrastructure,” Beach added. “The Georgia Ports bring in more freight than any other port. It is the fastest growing port in the U.S. and is the logistics capital of the Eastern Seaboard.”

Beach noted that 61 percent of Georgia’s products go to Asia, and 70 percent of those products are chickens. He noted only 17 percent of Georgia’s products are moved by rail, while the remainder is transported by truck. “We’ve got to get the rail numbers up,” he noted. “Ship-to-rail has been increasing over the past three years, and we have trains that reach 10,000 feet. This means long delays on Jimmy Deloach Parkway in Savannah, as cars and trucks wait up to 15 minutes for trains to clear railroad crossings.”

Nissalke outlines Hartsfield-Jackson’s Economic Impact, Investment Plans

Keynote speaker Dr. Tom Nissalke, Hartsfield Jackson’s Assistant General Manager for planning and development, who has served the airport for 20 years, noted it is still the World’s busiest, and has set the standard for large airport designs with its concourses that are perpendicular to its runways.

“We set the standard with that layout, which makes access to runways and terminals more efficient for the airlines,” he explained. “As large Airports throughout the U.S. make changes, they’re using that type of layout.”

“Atlanta still connects the world,” he added. “Hartsfield-Jackson generates $40 billion in direct economic impact; and $66 billion impact to the State overall. And 63,000 people are working on the airport site, while another 383,000 are employed in jobs offsite that are related to the airport.”

Nissalke said the new canopies over the curbside areas provide protection from the weather and represent just one part of a 20-year master plan originally projected to be $6 billion but that may increase by $800 million.

Other investments include runway reconstruction, a 24/7 operation with a price tag of approximately $50 million; a Sullivan Road Park-Ride facility with 1,500 covered parking stalls opening in January, and an off-airport parking lot – Atlanta West Deck – with 5,700 parking stalls, as well as a moving sidewalk and sky train to move passengers to and from the main terminal. The four-lane South Security Checkpoint will be expanded from four lanes to nine.

South Terminal De-icing pads, an investment of $170 million, will serve up to 332 aircraft and reduce delays. Other investments include raised crosswalks, which will get passengers off of surface crosswalks; a plane train “turn-back,” a $190 million investment, will reduce plane train turnaround time; a runway 92 end-around taxiway will reduce delays and reduce costs by $75 million; a $330 million concourse T North extension, will increase gate capacity; and a sixth runway, a $1.5 billion investment, will be added 1,450 feet north of the 5th runway.

Hartsfield’s Air Cargo facilities handle 700 tons of air cargo annually, and its managers are focused on leveraging technology and facilitating trade through its operations.

“We target key cargo markets, with a focus on Europe and Asia,” Nissalke added. We’re also focused on competing with our neighbors, such as Miami International, and improving road access to cargo facilities.”

Thanksgiving weekend, the airport saw 28,000 ride shares, which caused traffic to back up into I-285. “We’re working on another concept with Uber and Lyft to improve that for our passengers,” he added.