As the Atlanta airport region becomes its own center of economic gravity, the area will have to up its game in preparing workers for the jobs of the future, leaders said at the annual State of the Aerotropolis breakfast Thursday.
Aerotropolis Atlanta, a nonprofit launched last year, has helped coalesce the communities in the airport’s shadow and positioned them to win a bigger share of the city’s activity.
The effort seems to be working, given the announcement of major international wins like a training center from German automaker BMW in College Park and British fashion retailer ASOS’s $40 million new warehouse in Union City, which will employ 400. UPS, meanwhile, will put a $400 million packaging hub in southwest Atlanta, with some of the 1,250 workers expected to operate the latest in high-tech sorting machinery.
But an area that has been left behind in the past knows all too well that economic activity is only as good as the jobs that it generates for locals.
Shannon James, a vice president at BB&T and the incoming chair of Aerotropolis Atlanta, said the airport area had lagged the rest of the city for too long.
He pointed to a 1989 symposium in Atlanta that discussed in heady terms the development potential of the airport area, praising its swaths of affordable land and proximity to a major logistics hub.
Those dreams of development are just starting to come true, Mr. James said.
“I know it has seemed like a long time coming, but we are finally here,” he told about 300 guests at the Georgia International Convention Center.
Aerotropolis Atlanta has brought together workforce agencies, companies and educational institutions in a collective that pools resources, resulting in programs like Construction Ready Georgia, which trains and certifies workers. ‘
A total of about 75 people have graduated from various workforce programs focused on hospitality and construction, appropriate in an area with new hotels sprouting up.
“That’s not happening someday. That’s happening right now,” Mr. James said, having taken the stage after Pedro Cherry, executive vice president at Georgia Power and the outgoing chair.
Former MARTA CEO Keith Parker, now head of Goodwill of North Georgia, in a keynote speech offered his agency’s help in providing trained workers for various positions. Goodwill operates stores that sell donated goods, using the profits to fund job assistance and training programs.
Spreading opportunity more equitably, a central tenet of the Aerotropolis plan, can help fix the polarization of American society to prevent it from “degrading” further, Mr. Parker said.
He noted Atlanta’s meteoric rise to a city that can lay claim to be a frontrunner for Amazon’s HQ2 doesn’t mean everyone has benefited. Certain zip codes remain mired in poverty that can be nearly impossible for residents to escape, he said. (Aerotropolis programs specify a preference for residents who live south of Interstate 20.)
Cinda Herndon-King, director of Atlanta CareerRise, which was instrumental in forming the Aerotropolis Workforce Collective, said during a panel discussion that new programs would soon begin to focus on other key industry sectors identified in the aerotropolis “blueprint,” a planning process that led to the alliance being formed.
- Bio-Life Sciences
- Multimedia Production
Learn more about Aerotropolis Atlanta at https://aeroatl.org.