Aerotropolis Atlanta focuses on commercial and residential growth around the world's busiest airport.
Officials with Aerotropolis Atlanta said the area is becoming more attractive to businesses that eschewed it in the past.
“We’re providing tangible results to influence the narrative,” Shannon James, Aerotropolis President and CEO told the group at its annual meeting last week at the Georgia International Convention Center.
Morcease Beasley, superintendent of Clayton County Schools, said south metro schools have a strong role to play in making the aerotropolis area around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport a destination for business and residential development. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
The improvements come two years after a 2016 study of economic health around the airport found that unemployment was 43 percent higher than in the city of Atlanta and 81 percent higher than the national average, said Rob LeBeau, workforce solutions division manager at the Atlanta Regional Commission.
“These high unemployment rates, along with limited transportation access to quality jobs, contributed to an economic picture where nearly 1 in 5 households earned less than $15,000 a year,” LeBeau said.
To address the issue leaders aligned efforts with the more than 100 workforce groups working in the area and focused on ways to create opportunities for residents.
Morcease Beasley, superintendent of Clayton County Schools, said the quality of education also is improving in the south metro area, a key element in bringing jobs and economic development.
Beasley, a member of the Aerotropolis' education work group, said people too often focus on his district's loss of accreditation in 2008, which was caused by infighting among school board members and the system's central office, instead of asking how the school system is performing today. The system became fully accredited again in 2016.
To avoid answering questions about the past, he said, Clayton and South Fulton educators need to do a better job marketing all the educational opportunities, including the expansion of foreign language curriculum, classes in aeronautics and a push to get more students in advance placement classes.
“All the time people want to talk about what happened 10 years ago,” he said. “We have decided we will not respond to what you call us, we will respond to what we are.”
Why it matters
Supporters of economic development around Hartsfield-Jackson International say leveraging the status of the world’s busiest airport could boost the standard of living for many in south metro Atlanta. While the area has madeeconomic strides over the past five years, it still trails the rest of the metro in job creation and economic opportunity, and its schools continue to fight the perception among some that they are poor performers.