Atlanta region to work on metro export plan with Brookings Institution

By Maria Saporta

Metro Atlanta leaders will seek to grow the region’s global business opportunities through a new initiative that was kicked off Wednesday by JP Morgan Chase and the Brookings Institution.

The Global Cities Initiative, which is part of a five-year, $10 million, multi-city effort ultimately will forge new city-to-city partnerships to create trade and economic relationships to prosper from the growing urbanization of the world’s population.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the initiative takes advantage of growing businesses through exporting and by recognizing that the “Made in USA” brand is becoming increasingly valuable in the world.

The two-day conference, held at the Academy of Medicine on the Georgia Tech campus, will lead to a new Metropolitan Export Plan for Atlanta.

Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, and the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, will lead the effort — will assess marketing and business opportunities and begin to implement improvements. It will work with other core partners in the region, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center. UPS will chair the steering the committee, which will include the business community, universities and other local government agencies.

The Global Cities Initiative is being chaired by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who said that U.S. mayors are willing to sit down and talk to one another to share ideas and work together.

“Every time I come here, there’s an energy you have here in this city,” said Daley, who serving as a senior advisor to JP Morgan Chase. “There’s a city that has a great commitment to civil and human rights.”

Bruce Katz, vice president and co-director of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the manager of the Global Cities Initiative, said each city has its own qualities. “What Atlanta is good at is really quite different than what Austin or Denver is good at,” Katz said. For example, Atlanta works well as a center for logistics, as a base for corporate headquarters and a home for major conventions and events, such as the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

“You are what you are,” Katz said. “How do you collaborate to compete? How does a city mayor work collaboratively with its suburbs to compete? Is there a unified narrative?”

Katz said that Georgia traditionally has done well in attracting foreign direct investment, but it could do much better in exporting goods and serves around the world.

Reed said the Atlanta region did try, unsuccessfully, to pass a regional transportation sales tax plan last year. Although it was defeated by voters, Reed said the plan did receive unanimous support from regional mayors and county commission chairs. The mayor said that he believes there’s a growing appreciation of the interdependent relationship between the suburbs and the city.

“If you live in the suburbs, maybe you’ll come to the city to our new stadium,” said Reed, who then quoted his father. “If you want a friend, be a friend.”

Reed, however, did push back when responding to a question about how city governments were broke. The mayor explained that the city has more than a $100 million in reserves, it has just built a new international concourse at the airport and its bond ratings are strong.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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