Front and Center

helmetpastoralSoftware and s/w Development

Dec 13, 2013 (4 years and 6 months ago)


Front and Center

City showcases aerotropolis concept for world’s airport execs

By Bill Dries

Hundreds of aviation leaders from around the globe will descend on Memphis this week
for the annual Airport Cit
ies World Conference & Exhibition.

The three
day event gives Memphis a platform to tout its aerotropolis initiative

promotion of the city’s economy centered on the airport, other transportation assets and
their connectivity.

For two years, leaders of

Memphis International Airport and the Greater Memphis
Chamber have been working toward this event, which was held last year in Beijing and
is being held in the U.S. for only the second time.

Public and private officials hope to sell the city’s adopted aer
otropolis status to those
who judge it most critically and those to whom it matters the most. They will do so by
stressing Memphis’ role in the global marketplace.

“The aerotropolis is a regional concept,” said John D. Kasarda, the University of North
lina professor who originated the term and its definition in the late 1990s. “The
aerotropolis is an airport
integrated economic region. In (Memphis’) case, it spans three

A FedEx flight makes it final approach to Memphis International Airport.
The shipping giant is integ
ral to Memphis’ aerotropolis concept.

One of two new jumbotrons at Memphis International Airport welcomes
visitors to the Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition 2011. Airport
Authority Chairman Arnold Perl says visitors from 40 countries will see

Memphis is America's Aerotropolis.

Construction crews works on the new Ground Transportation Center at
Memphis International Airport, bolstering the airport’s aerotropolis status.

(Photos: Lance Murphey)

Memphis leaders signed onto the concept in 2006, th
e same year it got national
attention. Now the term is back in the news thanks to Kasarda’s most recent book,
“Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” co
written with
reg Lindsay
. Kasarda and
Lindsay mention Memphis often in the book, describing it as “a FedEx company town,”
a reference to the air cargo giant based in Memphis since 1973 whose World Super Hub
is at Memphis International.

“Boosters still crow about the c
ity’s rail lines and trucking fleets, but they’re only a piece
of a larger network,” they wrote. “FedEx was revolutionary only because it was the
network, limited only by the size and reach of its planes.”

Memphis has latched onto the concept, even coining

a trademarked slogan, “America’s
Aerotropolis: Where Runway, Road, Rail & River Merge.” With a $1.2 million U.S.
Housing and Urban Development grant and another $50,000 from the chamber,
aerotropolis leaders will develop a master plan by 2012 that will ma
p out the city’s
current and future transportation assets and how they connect.

Shelby County Airport Authority board chairman Arnold Perl says the plan
isn’t about the airport proper

there’s already a master plan for that

but “how
housing fits

in the aerotropolis model, the road connectivity and beautification, the
environmental areas.”

The master plan will, for instance, focus on development of the Lamar Avenue corridor,
which historically sees lots of truck traffic feeding to the warehouses a
round the airport.

“We’re going to have to have significant planning,” Perl said. “We haven’t done that with
aerotropolis. We’ve gotten there with some natural advantages.”

Kasarda’s aerotropolis concept has a purer incarnation than Memphis. It’s one he
rmed by observing airport developments in Asia and the Middle East, where facilities
were built

and are still being built

on “greenfields,” open swaths of land that allow
for any structure and layout imaginable.

“They can design them in terms of infras
tructure facilities, surrounding businesses and
industry to meet these 21st century needs,” Kasarda said. “There’s no prior development
on the property so they can move forward very efficiently and quickly.”

Meanwhile, Memphis and other U.S. cities aiming
to create an American version of the
aerotropolis concept have “legacy” issues, Kasarda said, most notably developments
around the airport that are “not necessarily consistent with the function of the airport.”

For example, developers overbuilt the area ar
ound Memphis International in the late
1960s and early 1970s. Despite a few deviations from the true aerotropolis model,
Memphis’ effort ranks at the top of Kasarda’s list for the leading U.S. cities along with
Detroit, whose airport brass also is pushing
the concept.

“To some extent Detroit has been going neck and neck with Memphis in development of
its aerotropolis area and master plan,” Kasarda said. “You had similar committees and a
very well run organizational structure.”

One advantage at Memphis Inter
national Airport is its dual status as a passenger hub
connection for Atlanta
Delta Air Lines Inc
. and the North American cargo hub for
based FedEx. Memp
his is the world’s second
busiest cargo airport in terms of
tonnage; earlier this year it lost its No. 1 ranking to Hong Kong after an 18
year run in
the top spot.

Memphis’ passenger hub is a survivor of the Northwest
Delta merger, although the new,
r airline has shed flights into and out of Memphis recently in light of the recession,
sparking concern that the city could be downgraded or even de

Still, Memphis International executives have their own vision of what the passenger side
of the aer
otropolis ledger can be. Their vision is leavened with the knowledge that most
passengers who come through Memphis International aren’t origination or destination
travelers but those merely connecting in Memphis en route to somewhere else.

Delta executives
, at least now, view Memphis as a hub to handle the overflow from their
flagship hub Jackson
Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, the busiest passenger
airport in the world.

That’s how Delta president Ed Bastian described the relationship last month i
n a
conference call from a
JPMorgan Chase & Co
. aviation conference in New York. Delta’s
Memphis hub will become more dependent on Atlanta’s excess “as we turn Memp
more into a complementary flow hub relative to Atlanta,” Bastian said.

Meanwhile, Delta will be cutting 2 percent of its world capacity this year in response to
the steep climb oil prices have taken since late last year. Memphis will lose 20 percent of

its flight capacity in the form of regional and connecting flights on jets that seat much
smaller numbers of passengers. Delta service between here and the top 50 markets is
unaffected by the cutbacks. And Perl said the aerotropolis concept remains intact

despite this news because of FedEx and the airport’s capacity for growth.

Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition

April 11
13, The Peabody hotel


8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Golf Tournament

9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Airport City Tour

1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Registration Desk open

2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Airport Cities 2011 Pre
conference Master Class

5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Speakers’ Briefing

7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Welcome Reception and Official Exhibition Opening


9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


9:40 a

Keynote speakers: Fred Smith, FedEx founder, and Richard Anderson, CEO Delta Air Lines Inc. with UNC
professor John Kasarda moderating.

6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Gala Evening at Graceland


9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.

Farewell Reception and Handover Ceremony in Skyway Room

10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

FedEx Super Hub tour

Full schedule at

“The passenger hub is critical. We’ve had it as a priority for many, many years to
maintain the hub. That has

been critical. We view it as a priority,” Perl said. “But as far
as aerotropolis is concerned Memphis’ stature … is grounded primarily by virtue of the
FedEx hub and it’s pre
eminence in the world, which provides this community global
access throughout al
l parts of the world.”

Of the airport’s estimated $28.6 billion annual economic impact, FedEx operations
account for 90 percent of it.

“It’s an economic reality that our (passenger) hub size will get somewhat smaller, but
FedEx is growing,” Perl said. “So

in terms of total air operations Memphis is continuing
to provide this community, Memphis ranks in the top 30 airports of the world for total
air operations.”

Memphis can find another aerotropolis parallel in Paris, where economic leaders are
pursuing the

aerotropolis concept at Charles DeGaulle airport, which serves as FedEx’s
European cargo hub.

Phillippe Yvergniaux, president of the Invest in France Agency’s North American office
in New York City, was in Memphis last month with a French delegation worki
ng to
improve trade ties specifically between Paris and Memphis.

Like Memphis, Paris has lots of warehouses and the jobs in those warehouses are a part
of the city’s economic formula that is becoming more highly regarded by political

“Twenty years

ago logistics had several constraints

noise, trucks, not many jobs,”
Yvergniaux said. “Now logistics
supply chain is really something which is a real driver
for our economic development.”

Yvergniaux prefers to call them distribution centers, which he sa
ys entails the technical
knowledge necessary to move goods into, through and out of them. And warehouse work
is more than moving boxes on a forklift. There is assembly and customization.

“The reality of the supply chain business now is it’s not just wareho
uses with these big
hubs with two or three guys with forklifts loading and unloading boxes,” Yvergniaux
said. “Now a distribution center today is much more of a huge information system with
specialized computer technicians that are generally good paying jo

Although the aerotropolis concept is embraced by city leaders who see their
communities as leaders in 21st century transportation, Kasarda’s idea has its critics.

Kazys Varnelis, director of the Network Architecture Lab of the Columbia University
uate School of Architecture, blogged about it in a post titled “Aerotropolis, the way
most of us won’t live.”

“It’s a catchy idea that’s easily summed up,” Varnelis said. “Add a few Zaha Hadid
designed windmills and you can probably get newspaper critics e
xcited too. But for the
most part, the aerotropolis is already here and most of us live in it.”

The point he and other critics make is aimed squarely at Kasarda’s purer vision of an
aerotropolis as a city built around an airport, not cities with existing a
irports. He also
attacks the present
day passenger flight experience.

“Even if I wanted to go somewhere 20 minutes from now, the pricing structure of airline
tickets and airline schedules prevents me from taking the next flight to Casablanca,”
Varnelis wro
te. “Modern plane flight is a real wonder, isn’t it? As far as packages, they
already wing their way to me rather effortlessly.”

Kasarda has heard the criticism before and dismisses it based on increases in air traffic
and what he terms a transition of air

travel from “elite travel to mass transit.”

He says such problems and other barriers cited by critics make the case stronger for
making airports the center of cities and regions.

“If you have weather where it not only affects the airports but it affects t
he ability to get
your people and products to the airport, you’re better off clustering closer to the
airport,” Kasarda said. “It would actually draw people closer to the airport because they
need that.”

The same goes for fuel prices and their impact, a ho
button issue as oil gets costlier and

“The higher the fuel prices, the more the movements of people and cargo. You can see
that taking place in the last year,” he said. “Both are tied to the strength of the economy.
… The two go together, the m
ovements and the fuel prices.”