Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said that domestic businesses like the ease of one-stop service to numerous destinations in the U.S., while international companies appreciate the ability to fly directly from Atlanta to many of the world’s capitals.
"If you had to pick one thing that is important to the great economic success in Georgia, it would be Hartsfield-Jackson airport," Dunlap said.
Philip Wilheit, a Gainesville business and civic leader who serves on the State Board of Economic Development, said he is encouraged by word from state officials that Delta’s proposed merger with Northwest Airlines, would keep the corporate headquarters in Atlanta. "Atlanta used to be the center of banking in the South, now that’s moved to North Carolina," Wilheit said, adding that other mergers, such as BellSouth and AT&T has depleted the ranks of major corporations with their headquarters in Atlanta.
Wilheit, who has been involved in recruitment of industry to Gainesville and Hall County, said every prospect that has been here in the past 20 years wants to know about the proximity to the airport. He said being in the one hour range to Hartsfield-Jackson has been important.
While the state is taking some measure of comfort in Delta’s assurances that its home would remain in Atlanta, the situation is being closely monitored. "The Department of Economic Development is watching this every day," he said. "We’re all concerned about Delta. We’ve ridden a lot of ups and downs with Delta in the past couple of years. They’ve come out of this great. We want to make sure we get to continue to enjoy the upside of Delta."