Delta jets prepare to take off from Tokyo.

Atlanta‘s leadership has a history of coming together to move the city ahead, but its advance as an international business center could be stalled if it isn’t a welcoming place for foreigners, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said at the Atlanta World Showcase Oct. 4.

After extolling the value of partnerships among civic leaders and Atlanta’s ability to move beyond politics to achieve big things, Mr. Anderson said a city known for Southern Hospitality must be more open to those from beyond U.S. borders.

“We should not be myopic in making sure we are open and welcoming people,” he said.

His didn’t say what prompted his remarks to a crowd of about 500 at the Georgia International Convention Center, but they seemed related to Delta’s moves to deepen its Latin American connections. The airline within the past two years has taken about a 4 percent stake in each of Grupo Aeromexico and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes S.A. of Brazil. Mr. Anderson said he wanted people like the chairman and CEO of Aeromexico, who recently visited his office, to feel welcome when they arrive in his city.

“I don’t want to be embarrassed when I ask our Central and South American leadership to come and live in Atlanta, and we have done that,” he said.

Mr. Anderson was particularly positive about Brazil, which he said had good infrastructure, solid financial institutions, cooperative government and a rich base of natural resources.

Welcoming the world, as Atlanta did with the Olympics in 1996 and on a smaller scale this week at The International Air Cargo Association‘s biennial forum and exposition, is just one of the many investments Atlanta and Georgia must make to maintain their global edge.

Infrastructure investment is paramount, he said, calling the deepening of the Port of Savannah an “incredibly important” project.

“It must be deepened. We must solve that because in order to draw big manufacturing firms into Georgia, they need that international outlet through the Port of Savannah,” he said.

Mr. Anderson also promised continued investment at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The crowd applauded as he recounted the opening of the new $1.4 billion international terminal, which he said would get even better as it time goes on. 

His comments came at the Atlanta World Showcase and Governor’s International Awards hosted by the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the World Trade Center Atlanta. Delta wasn’t nominated to receive any awards, but the airline garnered some publicity as other winners thanked the company in their acceptance speeches, one of which was even scripted to include Delta slogans from over the years. 

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...