Location, Location, Location

Georgia’s geographical advantage and smart logistics work for businesses large and small

by Carolyn Crist

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We’re one of the busiest gateways for international freight in the U.S. and have some of the best connectivity for trade lanes and markets around the globe.”

– Stacy Watson, director of economic and industrial development for Georgia Ports Authority

That package on your doorstep had a long commute.

Once an order is placed, the fulfillment process begins. The items are confirmed, warehouse staff pull the products from shelves and package them, and boxes are loaded onto trucks. Then pallets move by train, plane, or boat to the next fulfillment center, where packages ship out to distribution centers and delivery hubs. Another truck picks up the bundle, where it ticks down the stops to your front door.

What feels like a seamless single-click to a consumer initiates a journey that requires a massive infrastructure with organization, direction, and smooth coordination to move products to their destination.

In the Southeast, Georgia plays a vital role in the shipping and receiving of these products—not only throughout the region and the U.S., but around the world. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the ports along the coast, the extensive spread of interstate roads, and the connected rail system combine for a powerful logistical win. Eighty percent of the U.S. market falls within a two-hour flight or two-day truck drive from Georgia.

Amazon planes and trucks

Photos courtesy of Amazon

“The central location means that we can serve customers in all of the Southeast,” says Steven Armato, vice president of software development for Amazon, who has managed supply chain optimization and fulfillment during his two-decade tenure with the company. “With a selection of products from small businesses, coupled with flights from the airport, we can also make sure local products are sold to customers nationwide.”

With the rapid changes in online ordering patterns and digital business during the pandemic, the ecommerce industry progressed at lightning speed throughout the past two years. The supply chain and logistics infrastructure has raced to adapt, with no signs of slowing down.

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Even as a global company, we have to think and act locally.”

– Steven Armato, vice president of software development for Amazon

“You’ll continue to see businesses iterate on different convenience offerings, as seen in the last couple of years with ultra-fast delivery and grocery delivery,” Armato says. “Even as a global company, we have to think and act locally.”

As a major player in online delivery, Amazon has invested heavily in Georgia, putting in $6.5 billion during the past decade to create nine fulfillment centers across the Atlanta area, nine delivery stations, two ultra-fast delivery hubs, and a new robotic center in Columbia County. More investments are planned for the future.

“Everything we do works backwards from the customer,” Armato says. “I expect many businesses are still going to struggle with supply constraints in 2022, but we’ve done a lot to make sure that we’re building out the infrastructure proactively to have minimal disruption.”


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest passenger airport in the U.S. and the world’s busiest airport from 1988 to 2019, also serves as a major national and international thoroughfare for cargo. With connections to 170 domestic cities and 70 international cities in 45 countries, the airport marks one of the region’s logistical linchpins.

Georgia functions as a home for several industries that require precise timing, including pharmaceuticals, fresh food, and flowers. The state is also an important center for manufacturing and intermediary production for the aerospace sector, biotechnology companies, and the automotive industry.

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Cargo for us is at record levels, and it continues to grow.”

– Elliott Paige, airport director for air service development of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

“We’re known globally as the connected airport, which always leads to the joke that, ‘It doesn’t matter whether you go to heaven or hell, you have to pass through Georgia,’” says Elliott Paige, airport director for air service development, who focuses on economic development and trade expansion.

“The airport offers a great opportunity to be connected to the global marketplace,” he says. “It opens the state up for investment.”

When the pandemic hit, passenger traffic slowed and ecommerce exploded. The airport shifted by focusing on cargo, warehouse space, and technology improvements, and several airlines began carrying cargo in overhead compartments and on some passenger seats to keep revenue flowing.

Before the pandemic, industry experts expected 20 percent annual growth in ecommerce, which instead boomed to more than 100 percent by the end of 2021. The breakneck pace has continued. Before 2020, Paige says, online orders typically consisted of electronics and specialty products that couldn’t be easily found in local brick-and-mortar stores. Now people are ordering “just about anything” online—from toilet paper to their weekly groceries.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth in ecommerce, and much of that [nationally] is passing through the Atlanta airport,” he says. “Ecommerce is a special type of cargo that requires speed and efficiency, especially now that people expect to receive next-day or same-day orders.”

Amazon, in particular, grew from one flight per day to four flights per day during the pandemic, he says, and carriers such as FedEx, DHL, and UPS are pushing for more warehouse space for goods, ground handlers, and trucks. To adapt, Hartsfield-Jackson added new technology, called the “cargo community system,” to track freight and provide more details about the precise location of cargo. Now truck drivers can book specific dock doors at designated times to pick up the shipments they expect.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Photo courtesy of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

The airport is also working on a modern air cargo terminal facility, which will develop 53 acres of land at the southern part of the airport in coming years to handle more ecommerce, including perishables such as pharmaceuticals and groceries. There’s plenty of work to be done—the taxiway needs to be leveled, parts of Sullivan Road will be moved, and lines for communication, fuel, water, and waste must be installed. Airport officials put out a request for proposals for a developer to build the facility, with the deadline set for early 2022, and engineers should be able to complete most of the preparatory work by the end of 2023.

“We wish we had it five years ago,” Paige says. “Cargo for us is at record levels, and it continues to grow. We want to be prepared for that.”


While talk of ecommerce and cargo tends to focus on imports and cross-country shipping, exports play a major part of the equation as well. Hartsfield-Jackson also acts as a main connector for other countries in need of manufacturing and parts, particularly the aviation industry, which the state exports at $9.98 billion, according to a 2021 study.

With a headquarters in Peachtree City, Aventure Aviation has supplied aviation parts to customers all over the world for more than 20 years. The company specializes in buying retired commercial aircraft and refurbishing select parts to sell in more than 40 countries. In November 2021, the company was awarded the President’s “E Star” Award, which is presented by the U.S. Department of Commerce for excellence in exporting.

Georgia Ports Authority, Savannah and Aventure Aviation

Aventure Aviation (top) and Georgia Ports Authority, Savannah

Before selecting their strategic location in Fayette County, the company looked for an area that would be prime for logistics, quick shipment, and proximity to the Atlanta airport. Since then, Fayette County has also welcomed major offices for four additional aviation companies—Airbus, Boeing, British Aerospace, and Safran France.

“You need to be able to move fast and get on an airplane to Biloxi, Dublin, or any part of the world. Atlanta offers that,” says Zaheer Faruqi, CEO of Aventure Aviation. “These other companies believe those logistics are a reason to be here, too.”

Georgia offers a hub-and-spoke model like a bicycle, where Atlanta sits in the middle of the hub for other destinations. With Airbus aircraft assembly in Mobile, Alabama, for instance, supplies often flow from Mobile through Atlanta and then to vendors in Europe. Similarly with Boeing in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, parts tend to ship to Atlanta first before going elsewhere.

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Logistics is the reason we’re here in Georgia.”

– Zaheer Faruqi, CEO of Aventure Aviation

“With a hub-and-spoke, all the flights can come in and go off in new directions,” he says. “Chances are, you’re better off going through Atlanta.”

Aventure also occasionally ships large parts by sea.

Faruqi recalled a time when the company dismantled an aircraft in Spain, sent parts on a container ship to Savannah, and trucked the load up to Peachtree City.

“If we were located in the middle of the country, you can imagine how difficult it would be to handle that size and the shipping costs,” he says. “For us, logistics is the reason we’re here in Georgia.”

Gateway to the World

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100 million passengers and 650,000 metric tons of air cargo pass through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International each year.

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100 million passengers and 650,000 metric tons of air cargo pass through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International each year.

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100 million passengers and 650,000 metric tons of air cargo pass through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International each year.

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85 percent of the world’s top third-party logistics providers operate in Georgia.

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67 cold chain facilities are located in Georgia with 189 million cubic square feet of cold storage space.


Georgia’s deepwater ports in Savannah and Brunswick open up the state’s sea gateways to the world. They serve as critical conduits for raw materials and finished products to flow both to and from destinations across the globe. The Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal is the third busiest container-handling facility in the U.S., spread across more than 1,200 acres and moving millions of tons of cargo in containers each year.

“We’re one of the busiest gateways for international freight in the U.S. and have some of the best connectivity for trade lanes and markets around the globe,” says Stacy Watson, director of economic and industrial development for the Georgia Ports Authority.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The Port of Brunswick comprises three deepwater terminals and is one of the fastest-growing ports in North America for automotive and heavy machinery. More than 12 major auto manufacturers and three auto processors use the Colonel’s Island Terminal, which is also a key port for the import and export of agricultural products. The Appalachian Regional Port, operated by the Georgia Ports Authority and CSX Transportation in northwest Georgia’s Murray County, serves as an inland rail terminal for many products as well.

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The airport offers a great opportunity to be connected to the global marketplace.”

– Elliott Paige, airport director for air service development of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

“We’re a top port for refrigerated containers, which is important for poultry from North Georgia,” Watson says. “That’s also a huge benefit to our port because ocean carriers want balanced trade, so having the potential for outbound-loaded containers is a cargo magnet.”

Watson says he expects “some type of normalcy” in the supply chain in 2022 after months of record-breaking volume, not only for the ports but also for trucking, warehousing, and distribution centers. In mid-2020, port officials expected a double-digit loss in business for the year ahead, but by June 2021, the Port of Savannah had the second busiest month in the port’s history and the tenth consecutive month of positive year-over-year growth. Freight has been moving at levels anticipated at 2025 volumes, Watson says, which has prompted major investment and expansion.

As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Georgia Ports Authority received $8 million to create five pop-up container yards and free up dock space. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Transportation are identifying ports and inland waterways this year to dole out about $8 billion to repair outdated infrastructure, deepen harbors for larger cargo ships, and improve capacity for projected increases in imports.

Business expansion and job creation around Georgia’s ports have also boosted economic development efforts. “We’re in growth mode here,” Watson says. “It’s a testament not only that companies are choosing Georgia to set up their facilities but that they’re actually growing and prospering here and want to hire more employees and invest more into facilities.”


In 2021, numerous companies announced their planned expansions into Georgia. In Savannah, a host of businesses will set up operations at the SeaPoint Industrial Terminal Complex. Among them, a new e-waste recycling facility run by Igneo Technologies is scheduled to open in late 2023.

Igneo offers a sustainable solution for recycling electronic waste by extracting reusable metal components and eliminating organic matter in a closed-loop process. The resulting product, a high-grade concentrate of copper and precious metals, is then sent to metal smelting companies around the world. Based on an analysis with clients, the company estimates that the process could save six million pounds of material from landfills in 2024 alone.

Igneo Technologies

Igneo Technologies
Photo courtesy of Philippe Barbosa

“Most of that ends up in landfills, which is valuable material being dumped into the ground,” says Danish Mir, CEO & President of Igneo.

Headquartered in White Plains, New York, the company looked at 13 places in the U.S. and ultimately chose Savannah, which was the “winner, by far,” Mir says. The Port of Savannah offered the best location to ship copper concentrate overseas, and Georgia had an ethos of sustainability due to business investment, job creation, and programs focused on education around e-waste and sustainable solutions.

Quotation mark

The airport offers a great opportunity to be connected to the global marketplace.”

– Elliott Paige, airport director for air service development of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

“Beyond that, the regional logistics were important to us, and Georgia has that network with road and rail that lets us tap into the Carolinas and other markets while being right at the port,” Mir says. “Atlanta is also becoming one of the epicenters for e-scrap material.”

Igneo is also investing in a facility near the Atlanta airport in Forest Park to collect that scrap material, sort it, and transport it to Savannah for recycling. The company was encouraged by other businesses investing and growing in Georgia and at the port.

“You’re going to see more transformation in Georgia, and it’s already becoming apparent, with companies focused on sustainability moving to locate there,” he says. “It’s about logistics, but at the end of the day, it’s about people and wanting to leave a better planet for your kids and their kids.”