As anyone who has traveled through Atlanta's monstrous airport knows, the journey is more than a trip through security and waiting at the gate.
Upscale restaurants are common. Many retail stores and day spas are the same as those found at area shopping malls. And there are wall-mounted ads touting entertainment options in Atlanta once people get out of the maze that is the country's busiest airport.
This is likely what Gwinnett County commissioners have in mind with the recent Request For Proposals for county-owned Briscoe Field. Scheduled commercial passenger service is fair game for anyone to propose.
True, a college freshman might have his diploma before any cross-country flights land at Briscoe Field. But such service opens the door to other things, and Gwinnett County's overall business scene is not expected to improve anytime soon.
Finding new sources of revenue was a welcome topic at recent budget discussions by the commissioners. And passengers exiting the airport with suitcases, credit cards and digital cameras would qualify.
Check this entry from the recent RFP, under "Approach to Meeting the County's Goals:
"Increase the Airport’s role as an economic showpiece and business gateway for the County. Further develop the Airport to support the overall business activity of the region."
Now, about that airport down in Clayton County. A check of its website shows that it highlights its retail component as if it were a shopping mall unto itself. That is not to mention the attached YouTube video.
And once passengers leave the Gwinnett airport? Well, Gwinnett County itself has evolved. Per the 2010 U.S. Census, the county has a population of 805,000 -- compared to about 420,000 for the City of Atlanta proper.
And Gwinnett has become a self-contained area. The growth in such areas as Suwanee, Buford (Is there a mall there?) and Sugar Hill -- and contiguous areas such as Cumming and Johns Creek -- mean that fewer area residents commute inside I-285 for work or entertainment.
Remember, metro areas such as Dallas, Houston, New York and Washington D.C., have more than one airport. And retailing is an economic factor at all of them.
Also, the Gwinnett Chamber has established a trade liaison in China. And top entertainers such as Lady Gaga and Keith Urban are now routine at the Gwinnett Center. Fans fly in for such things. Really.
Any Gwinnett taxpayer has the right to oppose what is done with tax money and a public asset. But Briscoe Field belongs to taxpayers in Peachtree Corners and Duluth, too. And it appears that commissioners also are keeping them in mind.