Ge­or­gia is home to the world’s busiest air­port & is a ma­jor hub for in­ter­na­tional ship­ping traf­fic


When in­dus­trial construction worker Larry Ken­drick boarded Delta Air Lines Flight 1256 from Gulf­port to At­lanta in De­cem­ber 2015, he had no idea that he was about to fly his way into the his­tory books.

A lit­tle over two hours af­ter em­bark­ing, Ken­drick was wel­comed at Harts­field-jack­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port as the 100 mil­lionth pas­sen­ger to pass through the air­port in the year —the first time any air­port in the world has ever reached the mile­stone in a cal­en­dar year.

“I’m happy I could be part of it,” the be­mused 35-year-old said when he was greeted by the Mayor of At­lanta in a spe­cially planned cer­e­mony. To cel­e­brate the oc­ca­sion, Ken­drick re­ceived prizes in­clud­ing two round-trip tick­ets to any des­ti­na­tion in the world from Delta Air Lines, which is head­quar­tered in At­lanta and op­er­ates the world’s largest air­line hub at the air­port.

The al­most un­in­ter­rupted growth of Harts­field-jack­son in re­cent years has been in­stru­men­tal in the eco­nomic suc­cess of the state of Ge­or­gia, says Roo­sevelt Coun­cil Jr., the Air­port Gen­eral Man­ager.

“We are an eco­nomic engine for the re­gion,” Coun­cil says. “Our di­rect eco­nomic im­pact on metro At­lanta is $34.8 bil­lion and we have a to­tal im­pact of $70.9 bil­lion on Ge­or­gia. We are the largest em­ployer in the state, with more than 63,000 em­ploy­ees.”

The air­port, which served a record 104 mil­lion pas­sen­gers in 2016, plays a key role in bring­ing cor­po­rate in­vest­ment into the city. “When we go out and pro­mote At­lanta, the air­port al­ways plays a ma­jor part,” Coun­cil says. “Com­pa­nies want to be able to move their em­ploy­ees in a rapid and ef­fi­cient way to where they need to work. We are a very large part of Ge­or­gia be­ing the best state to busi­ness in.”

While Harts­field-jack­son is rec­og­nized glob­ally as the world’s busiest air­port, Coun­cil says that it is more im­por­tant to the air­port that it de­liv­ers ef­fi­cient, safe and se­cure ser­vices to its cus­tomers. “We have 2,700 land­ings and take-offs a day, so ef­fi­ciency is cru­cial,” he ex­plains. In 2017, for the 14th con­sec­u­tive year, Harts­field-jack­son was named the most ef­fi­cient air­port in the world by the Air Trans­port Re­search So­ci­ety (ATRS), beat­ing nearly 200 other air­ports to the ti­tle. “This gives a true in­di­ca­tion of how we han­dle op­er­a­tions here,” Coun­cil says.

Ini­ti­ated in 2016, a multi­bil­lion cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan, ATLNEXT, will de­liver the air­port with even higher lev­els of ef­fi­ciency and safety. The pro­gram will mod­ern­ize the do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal and con­courses, cre­ate new park­ing decks, con­struct a 440-room ho­tel, cre­ate ex­ten­sive com­mer­cial of­fice space, add a new run­way and new con­course, and will mas­sively ex­pand the air­port’s cargo fa­cil­i­ties.

It is a plan that has been greeted with en­thu­si­asm by Hart­field-jack­son’s largest cus­tomer, Delta Air Lines. “Air­ports are like a fac­tory for air­lines,” says the car­rier’s Peter Carter, EVP, Chief Le­gal Of­fi­cer and Cor­po­rate Sec­re­tary. “They are the places that air­lines leave from and come to and they have to be de­signed and up­dated to en­sure an ef­fi­cient and as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for our pas­sen­gers.”

“We want to be the very best air­line for our em­ploy­ees and our cus­tomers, and that in­cludes those in the next gen­er­a­tion, har­ness­ing the power of tech­nol­ogy to pro­vide the con­ve­nience and trans­parency that to­day’s trav­el­ers de­mand.”

Delta’s his­tory of fly­ing in At­lanta stretches back al­most 90 years, when the air­line moved its head­quar­ters here in 1941. In the 1950s, the com­pany pi­o­neered the use of the hub and spoke sys­tem, bring­ing pas­sen­gers to At­lanta to con­nect to other Delta flights. In Au­gust 1979, the air­line be­came the first one in the world to board one mil­lion pas­sen­gers in one month in just one city —At­lanta. The air­line cur­rently em­ploys 35,000 peo­ple in Ge­or­gia, mak­ing it the state’s sin­gle largest em­ployer.

Delta Air Lines & the Port of Sa­van­nah are en­hanc­ing the state’s trans­port con­nec­tions

Delta’s pres­ence at Hart­field-jack­son pro­vides Ge­or­gia with a de­gree of in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tiv­ity that few other parts of the US can match. “Hav­ing one of the largest air­ports in the world is a huge com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage for the state of Ge­or­gia,” Carter says.

In re­cent years, the air­line has de­buted new routes that link up At­lanta with nearly all of the world’s fastest grow­ing mar­kets. Start­ing in July 2018, Delta will op­er­ate a new non-stop ser­vice between At­lanta and Shang­hai, cre­at­ing a di­rect link between one of China’s ma­jor com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial cen­ters and the state cap­i­tal.

“Both global con­nec­tiv­ity and main­tain­ing a strong re­la­tion­ship with China are ex­tremely vi­tal to Ge­or­gia’s eco­nomic land­scape,” Nathan Deal, State Gover­nor, said when Delta re­leased de­tails of the new route. “The flight will help shorten sup­ply chains for our com­pa­nies and give them a daily link to China for time-sen­si­tive dis­tri­bu­tion. I ap­pre­ci­ate Delta Air Lines for all of its hard work in mak­ing sure that Ge­or­gia re­mains a leader in the global mar­ket­place.”

It is not only in the air trans­port sec­tor that Ge­or­gia is ex­pand­ing its in­fra­struc­ture and forging new trade links with the world. Gover­nor Deal’s Trans­porta­tion Fund­ing Act of 2015 will gen­er­ate $11 bil­lion in new fund­ing for trans­port over the next 10 years, in­clud­ing in­vest­ment in roads, rail and wa­ter­ways.

The largest in­fra­struc­ture and lo­gis­tics project in the state, and one of the big­gest civil works un­der­tak­ings in the coun­try, is the Sa­van­nah Har­bor Ex­pan­sion Project (SHEP). Sa­van­nah is al­ready the fourth busiest con­tainer port in the US, the coun­try’s sec­ond largest ex­porter of con­tain­ers, and home to the largest sin­gle con­tainer ter­mi­nal in North Amer­ica. The ex­pan­sion works are now deep­en­ing the har­bor and river chan­nel, so that the port can ef­fi­ciently serve the larger ves­sels that are call­ing in greater num­bers fol­low­ing the ex­pan­sion of the Panama Canal.

“We are spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars of port rev­enue to give us the depth and the ca­pac­ity to han­dle th­ese large ships, whether they are com­ing into the US or trans­port­ing goods from Ge­or­gia to the world,” says Bart Gobeil, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Govern­ment Af­fairs at the Ge­or­gia Ports Author­ity (GPA).

In Septem­ber this year, the port wel­comed the largest con­tainer ship ever to serve the East Coast of the US, a mon­ster with the ca­pac­ity for 14,414 twenty-foot equiv­a­lent con­tainer units (TEUS). As ship­ping lines evolve to­wards th­ese giant, more cost-ef­fec­tive ves­sels, Sa­van­nah is seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity to be­come the US port of choice for a new era in global ship­ping. “We are ef­fec­tively a gate­way port into the United States,” Gobeil says.

The ex­pan­sion project will have sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits for ship­pers who use the port. Lower prices per con­tainer slot will re­duce trans­porta­tion costs for US com­pa­nies mov­ing goods through Sa­van­nah by 20 to 40%. Ac­cord­ing to anal­y­sis by the US Army Corps of En­gi­neers, ship­pers will save $282 mil­lion per year once the har­bor deep­en­ing work is com­plete. The $1 bil­lion project is al­ready 60% com­plete and all dredg­ing should be fin­ished by 2019.

As well as deep­en­ing the har­bor, the GPA is also in­vest­ing in state-of-theart equip­ment to en­hance the ef­fi­ciency of its op­er­a­tions. The GPA will add four ship-to-shore cranes in 2018 and an­other six in 2020, to bring the to­tal to 36 cranes op­er­at­ing over nearly 10,000 feet of con­tigu­ous berth space in Sa­van­nah. At the same time, the GPA is in­vest­ing $128 mil­lion to in­crease the port’s rail ca­pac­ity and ex­tend its rail con­nec­tiv­ity with the Amer­i­can Midwest. The rail in­vest­ment will en­able the Port of Sa­van­nah to serve man­u­fac­tur­ers in cities as far afield as St. Louis and Chicago, con­sol­i­dat­ing Ge­or­gia’s po­si­tion at the heart of world ship­ping and trade.

“We have taken ad­van­tage of a strate­gic lo­ca­tion on the south-east­ern cor­ner of the na­tion to be­come a global hub for trade,” Gover­nor Deal says. “Our in­ter­con­nected high­ways and wa­ter­ways, com­bined with a ready-to-work com­mu­nity, cre­ate the ideal lo­ca­tion for in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies to suc­ceed.”

Harts­field-jack­son At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Delta Air Lines main hub

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