By Susan Long
Transportation should be thought of more on a statewide basis than locally, United Parcel Service (UPS) Vice President Chuck Altimari said Friday (Sept. 20) at a Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon on the economic importance of transportation and logistics to Georgia and Metro Atlanta.
Panelists at the luncheon at Villa Christina in Brookhaven noted the logistical and economic impact connections between the Port of Savannah, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and global companies such as UPS.
“The Port of Savannah and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport are important to us,” said Altimari about UPS, whose global headquarters are located in Sandy Springs.
While Altimari said the ability of UPS employees to get anywhere in the world from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport was a major factor in moving the company’s headquarters from Connecticut to Atlanta, he also noted the importance of moving UPS cargo through the Atlanta airport.
“UPS no longer just delivers and picks up packages,” Altimari said. “We have a major logistics operation with ocean and airfreight and places like Hartsfield-Jackson and the Port of Savannah are very important to us.”
Altimari said once the Port of Savannah is deepened and the Panama Canal is expanded in 2015, shippers will bypass using the Long Beach, Calif. port and use the Savannah port instead to cut down on transportation costs to get their cargo to the heartland of the U.S. He noted that UPS has an approximately 800,000 square-foot warehouse and distribution space on the south side of Atlanta where goods are stored for shipment to and from the airport.
Georgia Ports Authority Chief Operating Officer Griff Lynch said “we’re getting very, very close to having it (deepening) done. All the environmental and federal approvals have been done. We just need the money.”
Lynch said he expects the federal Water Resources Development Act to be approved by Congress in early October, which will provide the additional funds needed for the deepening project. The State of Georgia has already approved $231 million for the project.
The Port of Savannah is the fourth largest container port in the U.S. and the largest single terminal operation in North America with an impact of $32.4 billion on Georgia’s gross domestic product, Lynch said. Georgia’s deepwater ports’ total economic impact on employment is 352,000 full and part-time jobs and the combined impact of the ports industry and ports users on state tax collections is $1.4 billion.
But, Lynch said the Port of Savannah’s “Achilles heel” is that it is has the shallowest depth of any major port in the world. The port is 42 feet deep now, but needs to be 47 to 50 feet deep once the Panama Canal is expanded and larger ships began going through.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, has a $32.6 billion impact on Georgia’s economy, said Aviation General Manager Louis Miller. He noted that within the fence line of the airport, 58,000 people are employed by the airport, airlines and companies such as UPS.
Atlanta gridlock from areas such as the I-285 and Ga. 400 Interchange, which Altimari said is the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ priority initiative now, impact passengers trying to get to flights at the airport and has an impact also on traffic around the airport, Miller said.
The airport served 95 million passengers last year and is expected to serve 120 million by 2030. The biggest traffic is from originations and destinations rather than connecting flights, Miller pointed out. Hartsfield-Jackson is now investing $70 million in outbound roadways around the airport and Miller said transportation improvements in the Perimeter area are a model for the region.
“The Perimeter Business Alliance addresses broad public policy issues that affect the competitiveness of the Central Perimeter Market,” said Chair Bob Voyles, principal and CEO of Seven Oaks Company commercial real estate firm. “Through our bi-monthly luncheon series we highlight categories of businesses and industries that impact the Perimeter area’s economic strength and quality of life."