ATL Airport Community Improvement Districts
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Industry: Community Improvement District
Gerald McDowell believes in having the right people at the table when it comes to decisionmaking — and in ensuring those people represent a rich diversity of experiences and backgrounds.
“Sometimes we rely on traditional voices to participate in decision-making,” said McDowell, executive director of ATL Airport Community Improvement Districts (AACIDs). “However, it is very critical to include as many non-traditional voices as possible to ensure all perspectives are considered.”
AACIDs focuses on creating an economically strong, safe and attractive community surrounding the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — the world’s most-traveled passenger airport.
As executive director, McDowell guides AACIDs’ initiatives in project planning, resource management, partnership development and new investments. The multifaceted work acts as a “catalyst for infrastructure enhancement,” he said.
“We seek to raise the collective value of our community’s commercial properties while making the AACIDs a destination for new businesses, residents and visitors.”
Currently, McDowell’s team focuses on three key goals: beautification, public safety and transportation. Their work will help create more seamless access to the airport and its surrounding communities through road and highway improvements, increased public safety patrols and — in coming years — potential integration of a proposed automated transit network using autonomous shuttles, known as personal rapid transit pods, he said.
Under McDowell’s tenure, AACIDs has received more than $100 million in grants and project funding. The agency’s work has also been recognized with several awards, including the 2019 American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia Engineering Excellence Award, the 2019 Intelligent Transportation Society of Georgia Project of Significance and the 2019 Georgia Planning Association Outstanding Initiative, among others.
McDowell first began his career in community improvement districts in 2005. Prior to that, he ran his own small business — a brand development and strategic consulting agency — for almost five years. He spent nearly 20 years of his early career in the IT industry, drawing on his undergraduate degree in computer information systems.
“The skills required to build and grow a small business, including having a mixture of both shortrange and long-range goals, were very similar to what’s required to build a successful work program for a community improvement district,” McDowell said.
McDowell served as a member of the inaugural U.S. Department of Transportation Leadership Academy, conducted by former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He is a 2008 graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, a 2009 graduate of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute and a 2019 graduate of Leadership Atlanta. He is a multi-year honoree of the Notable Georgian designation by Georgia Trend.
Outside of work, McDowell is an avid baseball fan. He’s also very involved in the Atlanta community, currently serving on the boards for the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, the Council for Quality Growth, Georgia Foreign Trade Zone, the Georgia Chamber, New Life Community Center and Project Restart.
Baseball is my favorite sport and now It's become the favorite sport of my daughter.