Atlanta Regional Commission receives federal grant to create metro development plan

By Maria Saporta

The Atlanta Regional Commission has received a federal grant to embark on a year-long effort to put together an “economic development” framework for metro Atlanta.

The initiative was announced Monday morning at the Atlanta Region Summit of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative that is being held at Georgia Tech’s Conference Center.

The $318,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration us part of a three-year effort to create a strategic plan for innovation and growth for the whole region.

The effort is being doing in collaboration with Gov. Nathan Deal’s recently-launched Competitiveness Initiative, a 23-member council that is studying strategic issues to attract and keep high-paying jobs in Georgia.

“I want to make it clear that the Atlanta Regional Commission is not getting into the economic development business,” said Tad Leithead, ARC’s chairman and a development consultant. “We will be working with the Georgia Chamber, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the local chambers of commerce.”

Leithead went on to say that ARC would serve as a convener to “put together a framework” for a regional economic development plan.

The strategic plan could be broader than just looking at economic development targeted industries, incentives and programs. Instead, the effort might be to incorporate the complete economic development environment, including quality of life issues.

“We are at a crossroads with transportation, water challenges, education and an aging population,” said Leithead, who then heralded the recent ruling in federal courts that removed the July 2012 deadline that would have forced metro Atlanta to greatly reduce the drinking water that it could withdraw from Lake Lanier.

Leithead then reminded the audience of more than 200 metro leaders of the July 2012 transportation sales tax referendum as being a way to address one of the region’s most serious challenges.

“We are going to grow,” Leithead said. “Through this economic development compass, we can grow in a quality way.”

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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