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Cargo ship at Savannah Harbor

U.S. needs national strategy for seaports, says GPA director

When Curtis Foltz looks to the future, the head of the Georgia Ports Authority sees a day when ports around the nation won’t be able handle the demand for moving freight.

“Generally speaking, our ports are falling way behind in terms of modernizing, capacity, velocity, and utilizing capital,” said Foltz, GPA’s executive director since 2010 and head of the nation’s fourth largest, and fastest growing, container port.

Metro Atlanta on a morning commute

As auto sales rebound in Ga., new cars pay fewer taxes to build roads

An uptick in the sale of new vehicles that’s been linked to lower gas prices spells more trouble for state road funding.

Georgia’s collection of motor fuel taxes fell by 2 percent in the last three months of 2014. Revenues from tag, title, and fees rose by 2.7 percent during that period, according to a tabulation of monthly reports from the Georgia Department of Revenue.

New partnership intends to help develop affordable homes in region

More money is soon to be available for developers who need loans for projects in metro Atlanta neighborhoods still reeling from the housing crisis and, in some cases, woes that preceded the crisis.

The additional capital is to flow from a new partnership between Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. and The Reinvestment Fund.

“Some metro Atlanta submarkets are slowly rebounding from the great recession, while others are experiencing considerable growth,” ANDP President/CEO John O’Callaghan said.

Poll: Georgians want Congress to end impasse, fund roads, rails, transit

Georgians and residents of six other states want Congress to end its stalemate at least long enough to approve transportation funding before the existing pot of money runs out this summer, according to results of a poll released Wednesday.

The results could give federal lawmakers the political cover needed to provide federal funding for roads, transit and rail – a sector that historically enjoyed bipartisan support before gridlock reached its current state.

“People just want Congress to take action, and transportation is a no-brainer,” said Margie Omero, managing director of Purple Insights, the polling firm. “It’s not a partisan divide, at least among Georgians.”

ARC to Ga. congressional delegation: Help end impasse over transportation funding, GDOT official concurs

The Atlanta Regional Commission’s board of directors voted Wednesday to ask the state’s congressional delegation to resolve the impasse over the nation’s transportation funding program and keep transportation money flowing to Georgia.

The ARC board acted in advance of the July 1 deadline imposed by the state for approval of new transportation projects. The Georgia Department of Transportation swiftly endorsed the resolution approved by ARC’s board.

“We support the action of the ARC,” said Natalie Dale, GDOT’s liaison for government relations. “We’ve had similar conversations with our congressional delegation.”

New airport business alliance similar to successful economic development program in Gwinnett County

The newly formed Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance bears a striking resemblance to Partnership Gwinnett, a public-private initiative that has created a strong record of economic development in Gwinnett County.

Each entity was formed to attract jobs and investments to their respective areas. One distinguishing point is that the aerotropolis alliance was convened by the Atlanta Regional Commission, whereas Partnership Gwinnett is based at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

Photo of Adrienne Hopkins, founder of the Diaper Bank of Greater Atlanta.

Atlanta Diaper Bank a fresh resource for a hidden need

Behind Atlanta’s hunger, poverty and homelessness are parents who are trying to stretch every resource—even dirty diapers. To cut the cost of this basic need, their babies wear soiled diapers for longer periods than they should, and sometimes parents try to wash or reuse disposable ones, putting the kids at risk for staph infections.

Founded by Adrienne Hopkins of Kennesaw, the Diaper Bank of Greater Atlanta is winding up its annual “Twelve Days of Diapers” drive that began Dec. 1. The Diaper Bank is a nonprofit that helps cover the bottoms of babies and toddlers as well as adults who require disposable undergarments but cannot afford them. Its current goal is collecting 100,000 diapers and adult incontinence products before Thursday.

Transformed by refugees, Clarkston takes stage in ‘Third Country’

“I just want to know one thing: How do we stop the refugees from coming here?” That faceless voice rings from a cast member planted in the audience at the Horizon Theatre.

The play is“Third Country,” a drama based on the seismic change in Clarkston, which in the past 20 years has transformed from a predominantly white Atlanta suburb into what Time magazine called the most diverse square mile in America.

In this play by first-generation Egyptian-American Suehyla El-Attar, Clarkston is called Sidington, and the plot captures the intense emotions and misperceptions across our country about newcomers and the meaning of home, between ourselves and our shared space.

Higher local match for state road funding appears in counties that rejected transportation sales tax

The financial consequences of last year’s transportation sales tax referendum are starting to appear in the coffers of local governments throughout Georgia.

Counties that passed the sales tax have to match 10 percent to receive money from the state to maintain roads. Counties that rejected the tax – including metro Atlanta and most of Georgia – have to match 30 percent of the grant to receive any allocations from this pot of money.

The first round of checks has been released in the first time this formula has been used. In addition, this is the first use of a new state program the state Legislature created in 2009 in an attempt to streamline the state’s previous method of providing money to local governments to repair and maintain roads.

New study of Georgia’s school funding questions state’s ability to provide skilled workforce to business

A new report on state funding for K-12 education raises some challenging questions about Georgia’s ability to provide a skilled workforce to businesses – especially in areas beyond metro Atlanta.

School districts are coping with funding cuts through measures including trimming days from the school year and assigning more students to each teacher, according to the report from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. School budgets are squeezed by shrinking state support and by the declining local tax base caused by the recession, the report states.

Even as school districts are strapped, the Georgia Department of Economic Development is touting Georgia’s workforce development policies including its support for charter schools, pre-K programs, HOPE scholarships, and strong public technical schools and universities. Georgia has adopted common core standards in math and language arts, and allocates extra funding to districts that provide gifted programs, according to DEcD’s webpage.

Gov. Deal’s trade trip to Asia: Chinese phosphate plant to open near Savannah; tourism pitch on agenda

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday, on the first day of his trade mission to Asia, that a leading Chinese phosphates producer will open its U.S. headquarters and a manufacturing plant in Effingham County.

The agreement continues Georgia’s traditional efforts to secure foreign direct investment. This trip also intends to foster China’s tourism to Georgia, and nurture the relationship with Georgia’s second-largest export market.

The trip represents Georgia’s attention to China, the world’s largest travel spender and soon-to-be top oil importer. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed led a trade mission to China in March 2012, aiming to focus the country’s importers on metro Atlanta’s offerings such as bio-tech products and engineering services.

Smallish transportation projects advance as Sierra Club outlines thoughts on regional mobility

Additional federal funding for a new bridge across I-75 in north Cobb County and a stormwater project along Ponce de Leon Avenue in DeKalb County were among six transportation projects approved Thursday in a proposed amendment to the region’s long-term transportation improvement program.

Simultaneously, the Atlanta Regional Commission has started the competition among local governments for the region’s estimated $29 million a year in federal funding for projects that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. The filing deadline is Sept. 27 for this new round of federal funding.

Collectively, the projects represent the type of recalibration that is surfacing a year after metro Atlanta voters rejected the 2012 transportation sales tax and its $8.5 billion in planned mobility improvements. In a sense, this approach shares similarities with “framework for transportation progress” outlined by the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club.

Wheat export through port rises as Atlanta fosters role as logistics hub

Georgia’s port in Brunswick is benefiting from a rise in the export of Georgia-grown wheat to Mexico, and the first vessel of the season sailed from Brunswick Thursday.

Georgia farmers have bet heavily on wheat this year. The acreage committed to wheat production rose by 52 percent this year compared to 2012, from 230,000 acres to 350,000 acres, according to the Georgia Ports Authority, citing figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The idea that Atlanta has an interest in Georgia’s wheat exports through a state port is fueled in part by Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed has linked Atlanta’s stature as a global logistics hub with a seaport capable of handling the world’s largest cargo vessels. To that end, Reed is working diligently to obtain federal support for the deepening of the Savannah harbor.