A new state Senate committee, which includes a Gainesville legislator, will look at the state’s role in operations of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle appointed 13 legislators, including Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, to the committee Wednesday. Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, will chair the committee.
The study committee will consider the creation of an airport authority, which would provide the state with more influence in airport operations, including hiring administrators and coordinating with the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The city of Atlanta currently manages the airport.
“This would give us a seat at the table and a say of what the future of the airport should look like,” Jones said.
The committee will also look at possible second airport locations to help alleviate some of the traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson, frequently ranked as the world’s busiest.
“We have a state of 10 million people, and we are one of the few states with only one major airport,” Jones said.
Jones said the airport is a major economic engine that generates development and can be used as a tool to benefit the whole state’s economy.
“Businesses and entities that thrive off that airport, the commerce that is created by the airport, is what would benefit the state as a whole,” he said.
The airport has generated more than 400,000 jobs and $70 billion in economic impact for the state, according to a Wednesday press release from Cagle’s office.
Jones said he has been in communication with city officials and other stakeholders to discuss the state’s role in airport operations.
“As long as we have an open and honest dialogue with all parties involved, then we’ll come up with something that I think will make sense to both the state and the city and all the entities that are involved for the right reasons,” Jones said.
Miller said the state needs to be “good stewards of our resources,” including the airport and the port in Savannah, which drive both the state and national economy, he said.
The committee has not had its first meeting yet, and Miller said he plans to go into the process with an open mind.
“We have a new administration in the city of Atlanta and we’re about to have a new administration in the governor’s office, and I think we ought to go into this with our eyes wide open,” Miller said.