The world's busiest airport by passengers, Hartsfield ranks 11th nationally for freight.
While international cargo volumes have climbed 31 percent during his first 10 months in office, Mr. Reed said it's evident, especially at night, that the airport is not being used to full capacity.
“If you're out at Hartsfield-Jackson airport after 12 a.m., it's a very quiet place,” he said. “It should function 24 hours a day, and that's my goal.”
He added that cargo is a central piece to his "long-term strategy to make the city of Atlanta the logistical hub of the Western Hemisphere."
The motivation? Jobs.
Atlanta never fully regained jobs lost in the bursting of the tech bubble, and the construction industry is still reeling from the financial crisis, Mr. Reed said.
“Those two industries are going to be suffering for quite some time, so we need to be playing in new areas to replace them,” he said.
Air cargo provides a “ripple effect” of jobs spanning the spectrum of blue- and white-collar positions, from workers unloading the cargo, to truck drivers distributing it, to managers who direct these moves, he said.
The mayor last month welcomed an inaugural flight from Korean carrier Asiana Airlines, which now comes to Atlanta four times per week. The flight created 25 jobs and is expected to have an annual economic impact of $24 million.
Mr. Reed says he has studied Atlanta's job loss and "anemic wage growth" in "excruciating detail" and that creating "high-quality, high-growth jobs" is at the top of his agenda. He returns Saturday from Amsterdam but will leave for London about 10 days later, where he will study the use of an economic-development czar focused on recruiting and retaining financial-services companies.
"I want to see that model. I want to study what world-class cities do to be responsive, listen to the business community" and create a welcoming environment for companies, he said.
The city will either create such an office or work with the Atlanta Development Authority to establish one, the mayor said.
"One way or another, there needs to be a working group that focuses on job creation and wage growth, because I believe that this decade is going to be the decade of job recovery, and cities that win will be the cities that focus on making sure their people have a place to work," he said.
Metro Atlanta's unemployment rate stands at 10 percent.
Attracting more foreign companies will be integral to stemming job loss, said Mr. Reed, who said he will make other overseas trips in the future. Mr. Reed plans to visit China during the first quarter of next year.
"I will go wherever I need to go to generate well-paying jobs in the city of Atlanta. I don't think that you can create the jobs of the future by sitting at 55 Trinity Avenue," he said.