South Fulton Ready to Take Off: Q&A With Head of Connect South Fulton
By Lyle Harris
With the world’s busiest airport in its backyard, convenient access to multi-modal transportation and large swaths of land primed for development, South Fulton County is on the move.
Michael Davis, Executive Director of Connect South Fulton, is understandably “bullish” about the prospects for the region to emerge as a flourishing hub for high-flying investment, corporate headquarters and smart growth that will anchor metro Atlanta’s southern crescent.
What is Connect South Fulton?
Connect South Fulton is a public-private partnership with the South Fulton County member cities – Chattahoochee Hills, College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Palmetto, and Union City – that was started in November 2017.
Our vision is to position the South Fulton County region as the premiere choice for capital investment in Georgia. The mission is to attract global investment, spur vibrant growth, support educational institutions, foster workforce development, and enhance the quality-of-life for the member cities in the region.
Connect South Fulton serves as an advocate for member cities, cultivates commercial investment, collaborates with cities on economic development initiatives, and champions South Fulton county business.
You can learn more at thinksouthfulton.com
Where do you see South Fulton heading in the next 5-10 years?
By leveraging Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a catalyst for commercial and residential development, along with more than 45,000 acres of undeveloped land and our proximity to Atlanta, the South Fulton County region will be a premier choice for capital investment in Georgia over the next decade. International companies and companies looking for a national or regional headquarters will invest and locate in South Fulton County.
I believe a number of factors will make the South Fulton County area a popular option for current metro Atlanta residents frustrated with their work commute and the time it takes to travel to the airport by car as well as for individuals relocating to Atlanta. We also offer a better real estate value proposition, a lower cost of doing business and more green space.
Obviously, the two keys for the best possible outcome is thoughtful development across the region and the availability and access to transit. We are working collaboratively as a region of cities – strategically and tactically – to facilitate development that will spur vibrant growth and enhance quality of life.
What are some of the biggest opportunities or projects/initiatives that may impact economic development in south Fulton?
Airport City College Park – This project will have a big economic impact for College Park and in the South Fulton region as a whole. The 320-acre development will be located on the north side of Camp Creek Parkway, west of interstate 85 and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, across from the Georgia International Convention Center and adjacent to a MARTA train station.
The development will be a mix of Class A office space for corporate headquarters, as many as 10 hotels, as well as restaurants, retail, entertainment, and residential areas that will connect to the Atlanta BeltLine. The development will become a regional live, work, play, and shop destination for metro Atlanta This project will spur economic development and create thousands of jobs.
Georgia Aerotropolis Corridor (South Fulton Parkway) – There are 45,000 acres of developable land along this 25-mile stretch of highway that’s within minutes of the airport. The corridor represents a golden investment opportunity for mixed-used development including residential, office, retail, industrial and headquarters’ sites for corporations.
Foxhall Village – The 1,300-acre tract at the intersection of South Fulton Parkway and Cochran Mill Road in Palmetto will be used to develop 4,680 residential units, 420,000 sq. ft. of office space, 180,000 sq. ft. of commercial and 390 acres of greenspace. There are multiple tracts of 50, 100 and 200-acres reserved for international, national, or regional corporate headquarters providing close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson.
Downtown East Point Commons Project (East Point) – The city of East Point is selecting a master developer for an 8-acre, mixed-use site with direct access to US Highway 29 and close proximity to the East Point MARTA Station. It will be a transit-oriented development opportunity that will spur economic activity, create new jobs, and rejuvenate the downtown area.
What are some of the challenges facing South Fulton?
One challenge is the lack of awareness and knowledge about the area, from our cities to the companies that have made an investment and have a presence in the region. The challenge is to engage the investment community to drive or fly in to see the opportunities first-hand. I look at these challenges as opportunities to inform and engage those who do not know about South Fulton and who are not current on all of the exciting things that are happening in the region.
What are some notable companies or organizations that have located or expanded in south Fulton in the past 6-12 months?
Some of the newer, notable companies in the past year include: ASOS (U.K.-based fashion and beauty retailer), BMW (training facility), Sonoco Products (packing products services), Flexport (freight forwarding and custom brokerage), Schweld & Sons (food processing center), Sysco Atlanta (food products), Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club (minor league), UPS (logistics facility), Pratt Industries (recycling plant), OEM Services Americas (component logistics and trading services for airlines and original equipment manufacturers).
What’s your take on the overall economy of metro Atlanta, and how does south Fulton fit into the regional picture?
I am very bullish on the metro Atlanta economy. Metro Atlanta has a low cost of living and a vibrant, diversified economy. Atlanta ranked third in metropolitan area population growth nationwide last year. The population growth is driven by metro Atlanta’s strong economy.
With a direct economic impact of $35 billion in revenue and 245,536 jobs, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is the catalyst for the metro Atlanta economy. The $6 billion investment for the ATL Next project will significantly increase the economic impact of the airport on the area. The direct proximity of South Fulton County to the airport – and to international, national, and regional headquarters – provides us with an unfair competitive advantage for development.
South Fulton has more undeveloped land in proximity to an international airport than anywhere else. That’s not hyperbole. Other metro Atlanta areas have fared better than the south side in recent history. But I believe the time is now for the south side to begin a period of major growth and expansion over the next decade.