Ben DeCosta, aviation general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has received a National Leadership Award from the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

The award honors public servants who exhibit leadership and courage through challenging times.

“Being a public servant is a privilege, because every day each decision has the potential to make a lasting impact on the millions of people we serve,” Mr. DeCosta said in a statement. In all departments, the airport employs more than 56,000 people and has an estimated economic impact of $23.5 billion per year.

Mr. DeCosta has shepherded Atlanta’s airport for more than a decade, during which he has received numerous leadership awards. Under his watch, Hartsfield has become the busiest in the world by passenger volume and has been named the most efficient in the world by a variety of industry experts and organizations.

Although the airport is 22nd in the world in terms of cargo volume, Hartsfield was voted by industry professionals as the top cargo airport of the year at the Air Cargo World conference in Munich, Germany, in May.

Mr. DeCosta has also overseen implementation of the airport’s $6 billion capital improvement plan, which led to the completion of a fifth runway in 2006. Now, he has his sights set on completing the nearly $1.4 billion Maynard Jackson Jr. International Terminal, which officials hope will lead to smoother flight transitions for connecting passengers and further growth in overseas routes.

The project is underway but has hit some snags. Bond markets have been tight during the global economic downturn, and news reports have indicated that there have been rocky negotiations between the airport and Delta Air Lines Inc. over a lease extension agreement for the world’s largest airline and other issues.

Delta is the airport’s largest tenant, occupying 70 percent of its capacity.

The National Leadership Award winners were announced at the NFBPA’s 2009 awards banquet in Washington on July 16. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...