Some were marathon runners and self-proclaimed rum connoisseurs. A few hailed from Africa, while most came from across the Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The common thread that brought them all together in Atlanta? Airports.
CIFAL Atlanta, a United Nations agency that trains world leaders, hosted more than 70 airport and transportation officials from 20-plus countries to learn from North American industry leaders and the experts running the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta.
The multi-day forum was organized under the DNA Assistance Program of Airports Council International, a key industry group.
To launch the event, attendees sat around a massive conference table in Marietta and shared personal facts to break the ice.
A visitor from the South American nation of Suriname shared his love for cooking, while one from Ecuador spoke of his love for the Liga de Quito soccer team.
Tom Walker, an executive at Atlanta-based construction firm IntegralGude, said he was Chicago airports commissioner when O’Hare lost the title of “world’s busiest” to Atlanta in 1996.
Craig Lesser, the CIFAL board chairman, was a different kind of commissioner – leading the economic development department of the state of Georgia after coming to the state from New York with only $200 in his pocket. “This is a great place,” he added.
The comments set a amicable tone for a conference that was to last May 8-10 and include tours of the new international terminal Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as well as a briefing from its aviation general manager, Louis Miller.
Mr. Miller’s predecessor, Ben DeCosta, opened the training with a session on evaluating the economic assets of the city and region when crafting a strategy for attracting new carriers and routes.
“Here in Atlanta we have many of what they call the Fortune 500 companies, and a reason they are here is because of Hartsfield-Jackson,” he said, soliciting feedback from other officials about how their airports are “magnets” for commercial activity.
The forum was titled “Air Service Development and its Vital Link to Economic Development”.
CIFAL Atlanta recently moved to new offices at Kennesaw State University.
Visit www.cifalatlanta.org for more information.