Hartsfield-Jackson's international terminal, normally bright and airy, was dark from nightfall until the restoration of power at about 7:30 p.m.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – with roaring departures every 45 seconds and ever-encroaching runways – has often had a turbulent relationship with the communities around it. 

But for this economic engine to really start humming, all stakeholders need to realize that they’ll fly farther by working together, the leading expert on the “aerotropolis” concept said during a November speech in Atlanta.  

John Kasarda, a University of North Carolina business professor who has led the way in conceptualizing 21st-century cities anchored by globally connected airports, called the Atlanta airport a “Formula One engine with a station-wagon body.”

He said Atlanta will end up with an aerotropolis, but its effectiveness will hinge on the quality of central planning behind it.

In 2012, the airport did well to keep up with its own growth. Not only did it open a new international terminal, but it also hosted TIACA, the largest industry conference for air cargo. Porsche‘s groundbreaking on a new North American headquarters at the Aerotropolis Atlanta development was icing on the cake. 

In view of all this, the airport community convened chambers of commerce, government leaders, businesses, economic developers and other stakeholders to begin talking about how to maximize their efforts. 

In two meetings led so far by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Airport Area Task Force – a more permanent name is under discussion – has explored model developments around the world and bandied about various structures that could be used to fund and oversee the initiative. 

One concern about community-wide initiatives is their ability to be carried on over time across various leaders, a concept that was discussed during the Sustainable Airport Areas seminar hosted by the French-American Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia Institute of Technology in October. 

The event built on an existing partnership between the Atlanta and Paris airports, which have been sharing knowledge since discussions began at the 2010 France-Atlanta series of events. This year’s seminar brought together more than 100 experts and observers from all over the world. 

Look for new Global Atlanta coverage on this effort throughout 2013, including multiple interviews we’ve already completed with leaders from Amsterdam and Paris airports and designers that have worked on master planning for both. 

We’ll also be following the meetings of the Atlanta Airport Area Task Force, which will be ironing out many existential and operational issues in the coming months. 

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...