Leaders hail vital linkage between ports and airportBy W. WINSTON SKINNER
Editor’s note: This is the sixth and last installment in a series taking a look at issues discussed at the recent South Metro Development Outlook conference relating to Coweta and its neighbors in metro Atlanta’s Southern Crescent.
The Port of Savannah — which also has a facility in Brunswick — is hours away from Atlanta and Coweta County, but its economic impact to the region is important.
Westmoreland, a Republican who lives near Grantville, served on a panel with U.S. Rep. David Scott and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at SMDO. Westmoreland thanked Reed “for his efforts he’s put forth for the ports” and noted Reed, a Democrat, and Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, have met with federal officials in an effort to get funds to deepen the Savannah port and thereby expand its work.
“We need to be working on some east-west roads,” Westmoreland said, speaking of “the truck traffic going through the cities” between Savannah and the airport.
The ports expansion is an issue on which “we are all working hand in hand — the governor, the mayor, all of us,” Westmoreland stated.
At SMDO, which is organized annually by The Collaborative Group, Reed talked about the vital economic connections between the ports and the airport. He also said the Savannah port needs to be deepened.
“When that happens,” he said, the state will be in “an envious position” and the region south of Atlanta will benefit. A number of Coweta County companies already use the ports for importing materials, exporting finished goods — or both.
Deepening of the port would increase what can be brought into the harbor. Then, when shipments reach the airport, “you can reach 80 percent of the United States within two hours,” noted Louis Miller, Hartsfield-Jackson’s general manager.
Pedro Cherry, vice president of community and economic development for Georgia Power, summarized Georgia’s transportation assets.
Hartsfield-Jackson “helps makes Atlanta and Georgia — helps make our region the economic driver of the Southeast,” he said. Hartsfield-Jackson “is the busiest airport in the world,” he added. “Hartsfield also has the most seats, the most direct flights to other markets.”
He explained, “You want to be able to connect to your customers, your existing and new customers. Hartsfield allows anybody to do that both cheaply and efficiently.”
He described Hartsfield-Jackson as “the number one airport in the world.” Cherry stated, “For us not to take advantage of it would be shame. It is a true selling point for Atlanta and the entire state.”
At the same time, Georgia has “the most extensive railroad system in the Southeast,” Cherry said. He also spoke of the state’s interstates and highway system.
“We have the Savannah harbor seaport,” he said. All those assets together “make us a logistics hub,” Cherry said. “There are a lot of things that we can do to grow our economy.”