Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson were wiping away tears as they signed a 20-year lease extension.
Delta, which has called Atlanta home since 1941, committed to sticking around for at least another 20 years on Wednesday.
Anderson was hired as Delta’s CEO in 2007 and plans to retire on May 2.
Reed said Anderson has served as his personal mentor from his early days as mayor and said he feels like the training wheels are now off.
“Richard Anderson was here when I started,” Reed said. “It was good as someone being relatively young when I got this job to be able to get on the phone and get advice from someone that didn’t need anything from me.”
Reed said Anderson was influential in the city’s development.
“When history catches its breath, his name will be right among folks like Mills Lane, Robert Woodroof and Robert Goizueta, Ted Turner and others, because of the work he did,” Reed said. “If not for Richard and his leadership, we might as well be having this ceremony in Minneapolis.”
Delta has also agreed to pay for half of a six billion dollar expansion project at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The project will add a runway, 400-room hotel, parking decks and passenger gates, and spend $900 million on a new international concourse.
During the news conference, Anderson asked Atlanta city council members to rename the airport to “Hartsfield-Jackson-Reed International Airport” in honor of Mayor Kasim Reed.
“What we actually did in this document was restate and complete rewrite the agreement that Maynard Jackson signed in 1978,” Anderson said. “The foundation he has laid in a $6 billion investment over the next several decades ensures that this airport will remain the number one airport in the world.”
Reed said it took two more than two years of negotiation to finalize the details of the lease renewal with Delta Air Lines.
Metro Atlanta Airports
Reed said he felt confident that Hartsfield-Jackson would be the only commercial airport in metro Atlanta during his term.
“I think the signing of the lease significantly diminishes the likelihood that you’ll build a second airport in the metropolitan region,” Reed said. “Atlanta’s an intentional city. The success of Hartsfield-Jackson is not an accident and it should not be meddled with. When folks start talking about another airport, show me who has done a better job in the airport space than we have. We are the best in the world at it. So in my opinion you probably shouldn’t mess with that.”
Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport is currently working to add commercial passenger service in Paulding County.