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It will take more than money to find the right leaders for the Atlanta region

By Guest Columnist JEREMY GARLINGTON, an executive leadership consultant who lives in Atlanta

Which came first: The leadership chicken or the egg? Based on what’s been unfolding in recent weeks, there are a lot of eggless chickens right now who won’t cross the road.

The “nation’s political leadership” seems like an oxymoron with emphasis on the third and fourth syllables. For those who don’t want to count syllables, just start reading from the ‘m’ forward.

Metro Atlanta is a slightly different story – at least on the surface. Local government hasn’t shut down, which means trash gets picked up and schools remain open.

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Georgia’s economic future depends on education — now more than ever

By Guest Columnist STEVE DOLINGER, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

There is a crisis in the South that threatens the region’s economic viability and competitiveness. According to a recent study conducted by Georgetown University, many parts of the South (including Georgia) are trapped in an economic cycle known as the low-wage/low-skill equilibrium.

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Many Atlanta executives see sustainable growth as a balancing act

By Guest Columnist MICHAEL STOKKE, Atlanta office managing partner for Grant Thornton LLP

I often have the opportunity to speak with Atlanta CEOs on timely topics and have been surprised to find that the recent recurring theme of achieving sustainable growth is consistent among business leaders. CEOs who operate in varying environments are aligned on challenges and approaches to effective growth management.

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Solar more viable as Georgia’s new nuclear power plants face overruns

By Guest Columnist JIGAR SHAH, author of “Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy”

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., is in the midst of building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The projects are at least $737 million over budget which will up the total cost to $6.85 billion.

Instead of deciding whether to raise the budget now, utility regulators want to postpone that debate until the first of the new reactors comes online in January 2018 at the earliest. Or have the debate when Georgia is way too deep in sunk costs.

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Teleworking in Georgia offers real life benefits of a virtual office

By Guest Columnist BOB MURPHY, call center manager at Georgia 811, a nonprofit entity dedicated to protecting Georgia’s underground utilities  

A number of metro Atlanta’s top employers, including Coca-Cola, AT&T Mobility, SunTrust, Georgia 811 and Chico’s, showed their support for Georgia Telework Week in mid August.

As metro Atlanta businesses and organizations try to navigate the challenges of today’s economy, more and more employers like these are finding that telework — allowing employees to work from home — offers significant potential when utilized correctly.

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A dream for one Atlanta: Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream a work in progress

By Guest Columnist CEASAR MITCHELL, president of the Atlanta City Council and practicing attorney with the global law firm of DLA Piper

At exactly 3pm on last Wednesday Aug. 28th, millions joined in bell ringing ceremonies in Washington D.C. and other cities, towns and hamlets around the globe.  This ceremony coincided with the beginning of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington.

Inspired by the clarion call of Dr. King’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, I hosted a bell ringing ceremony at Atlanta City Hall.  This ceremony attracted a diverse array of Atlantans including civic leaders, business people, foreign consuls, community advocates and other electeds who joined with members of the Atlanta City Council and other city employees to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

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Two Atlantans PR veterans — Bob Cohn and Norman Wolfe — built global brand while mentoring many of us

By Guest Columnist MITCH LEFF, owner of the Leff & Associates public relations agency who began his career with Cohn & Wolfe in 1988

In 1970, two ex-newspaper men – Bob Cohn and Norman Wolfe — started a public relations agency in Atlanta. That in itself perhaps wasn’t remarkable. There have been uncounted PR agencies launched here over the last 40 years.

What was remarkable is how that little agency, Cohn & Wolfe, grew from four account people and two secretaries into a national and global brand and in the process became an incubator that produced some of Atlanta’s top public relations professionals.

Earlier this year, 43 years after its founding, PR Week magazine selected Cohn & Wolfe as the No. 1 agency in the United States and in the world. What Bob and Norman started, and what hundreds of us contributed to over the years, became an agency with 62 offices around the globe; from London to Cairo to Abu Dhabi to Africa.

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Georgia needs to begin working on ‘what’s next’ for transportation

By Guest Columnist SETH MILLICAN, director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance

As we mark a year since the 2012 primary election, community and business leaders continue to assess the results of the Transportation Investment Act.

There is often a tone of chagrin in those conversations as people try to figure out why the referendum passed in only three of 12 regions and try to redefine a vision for Georgia’s transportation future.

While Georgia is fortunate that 54 counties chose to adopt the TIA and begin investing $2 billion in their local transportation infrastructure, the truth remains that as a “hub and spokes” state, Georgia’s economic success hinges largely upon the success of metro Atlanta.

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Atlanta’s other secret: Our technology entrepreneurs live well and contribute

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series that advocates for metro Atlanta as a great place to start a technology company. Part One examined Atlanta’s robust community of entrepreneurs.

By Guest Columnist STEPHEN FLEMING, a Georgia Tech vice president who manages the Enterprise Innovation Institute

As previously noted, most – not all, but most – successful entrepreneurs have experience under their belt before launching into their new venture. At this stage in life, they can benefit from the quality housing and other intangibles that Atlanta can provide.

In Mountain View, you can buy this 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 960 square foot, 70-year-old cottage on 1/6th of an acre for $1.1 million. It's a lot better than a São Paulo favela … but, really, is that where you want to raise your kids?

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Atlanta’s little secret; our technology entrepreneurs may have gray hair

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a two-part series that advocates for metro Atlanta as a great place to start a technology company.

By Guest Columnist STEPHEN FLEMING, a Georgia Tech vice president who manages the Enterprise Innovation Institute

Last month, Sarah Lacy of Pando Daily posted an article titled, “Memo to non-Valley, non-NYC ecosystems: No one you want cares about the cost of living.” Lacy opined:

“There's a reason I never talk up taxes or cost of living as reasons other startup ecosystems will take off: Because none of the people who really matter give a [redacted] about these things ….

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Metro Atlanta would benefit from creation of Export/Import Highway

By Guest Columnist LANIER BOATWRIGHT, executive director for the Three Rivers Regional Commission

Why should Metro Atlanta residents and business leaders care about a little known proposed highway between Macon and LaGrange?

Because without it, freight traffic on Metro Atlanta’s roads and rail will increase by as much as 300 percent once Savannah’s Harbor is deepened in the next few years. That’s right. Triple the traffic that’s already there.

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‘Look Up Atlanta’ gives region an opportunity to reclaim social identity

By Guest Columnist SUZANNE BURNES, executive director of Sustainable Atlanta

There was a time not that many years ago when Atlanta was seen as a hub for social progress.

While we can all point to ways that we have backslid or treaded water since that shining age of engagement and leadership, one thing hasn’t changed. Critical masses of Atlantans, Decaturites, Gwinnetians, East Pointers and those who call every corner of this region home are passionate about making this region a better place and are doing their part to change it.

We are home to internationally-known non-governmental organizations, academic and public health institutions, and multi-national corporations, as well as thousands of smaller NGOs and businesses, and each and every one of these organizations can point to the do-gooders in their midst.

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Businesses and nonprofits helping Georgians better manage their money

By Guest Columnist JENNER WOOD, chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank – Atlanta/Georgia

In Georgia, 59 percent of individuals lack a rainy day fund to cover expenses for three months; 19 percent of households spent more than their income over the past year; and 38 percent of those with credit cards paid only the minimum during some months in the last year.

These are just a few of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings from its 2013 state-by-state financial capability survey.

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Georgia seeks to be arbitration center for international business disputes

By Guest Columnist STEPHEN WRIGHT, an attorney at the Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma law firm

Georgia, and most importantly the City of Atlanta, is a great place for conducting international business.  The airport in Atlanta and port in Savannah together put the state at a global trade and transportation hot spot.  With our mild climate, advantageous costs of living, and pro-business environment, Georgia shines as a place to locate international facilities.

Now we have another advantage in our international trade infrastructure with a major overhaul of Georgia’s international commercial arbitration law.

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New Falcons stadium can shine by giving opportunities for minority firms

By Guest Columnist STACEY KEY, president and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council

Atlanta has a long history of significant business ventures that transform the face of the city.  From Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, our legacy is rich with opportunities for diverse participation in large-scale projects. Our next opportunity will occur with the new Falcons Stadium.

The Falcons recently released an Equal Business Opportunity plan (EBO) for the design and construction of their new facility that spells out the plan for achieving a 31 percent participation goal for minority and women-owned businesses.

We applaud the Falcons and the City of Atlanta for their efforts thus far to incorporate inclusive procurement practices. The plan honors Atlanta’s heritage, sets goals and has ambition, but to achieve true supplier diversity, success lies in the details.  The EBO plan must be a start – not the goal.

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Serving locally-grown nutritious foods is not only healthier, also saves money

By Guest Columnist CHRISTIAN HARDIGREE, director and professor of the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University

The future of the food service and hospitality sector belongs to smart operators who hire talented, bright managers. That’s why Kennesaw State University created a bachelor’s program to train and inspire the next generation of managers in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Consider the magnitude of the U.S. restaurant industry. It generates approximately $660 billion in sales (4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product), while employing 8.6 percent of the total workforce. In 2013, Georgia’s restaurants are projected to register $16 billion in sales, while employing 10 percent of the workforce, with estimates for 14 percent job growth over the next 10 years.

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As hope replaces despair, Atlanta’s role in housing innovation continues

By Guest Columnist CAROL NAUGHTON, senior vice president for Purpose Built Communities

Atlanta has indeed been a national leader in affordable housing innovations, as SaportaReport noted in the June 11 Maria’s Metro column.  The invention, and more importantly, reinvention of public housing, are examples of the kind of innovation of which Atlanta is capable.

The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) remains a leader in affordable housing innovations that create better outcomes for people and neighborhoods. Having spent much of my career in community development, I know first-hand how revolutionary its approach to affordable housing has been.

AHA shifted the paradigm that had written people off by isolating, warehousing and marginalizing them in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty with substandard housing and living conditions, into neighborhoods that provided much higher-quality, more desirable options through mixed-use, mixed-income communities.

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Adopting Common Core Standards makes business sense for Georgia

By Guest Columnist DANA RICKMAN, director of policy and research for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

Recently there has been no education topic more hotly debated than the Common Core State Standards.

For those of you new to this debate, the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) are Georgia’s version of the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It is important to understand the purpose of the standards, why Georgia led the nation in adopting them and why they were created in the first place.

In 2006, it was evident that the United States was falling behind other countries in our ability to educate a competitive workforce for the global market. American 15-year-olds ranked 25th globally in math and 21st in science achievement on the most recent international assessments.

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Watch out Atlanta and Georgia — we can see Charlotte and North Carolina coming up fast in our rearview mirror

By Guest Columnist JANICE L. MATHIS, vice president of legal affairs for the Rainbow Push Coalition in Atlanta

I confess to bias toward North Carolina. My mom went to North Carolina Agriculture & Technical University (A & T) at a time when higher education opportunities for African American women were miniscule.

My dad helped send Jesse Jackson to A & T. Watching ACC basketball was not a small factor in choosing Duke University. Research Triangle Park, former North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford, summers during high school at Bennett College all leave me favorably predisposed toward North Carolina.

But early on I also heard the siren song of Atlanta. Daddy went to graduate school at Atlanta University. We rode the train from Greenville to visit him. We stayed and ate at Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant. It was magical.

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Georgia companies finding benefits in setting up teleworking programs

By Guest Columnist TEDRA CHEATHAM, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign

The recent decisions by Yahoo! and Best Buy to end their telework programs have kick-started discussions in workplaces across the country about whether flexible work arrangements are a viable business strategy.  Is telework on the way out?

The truth is that the companies at the center of this debate have made isolated decisions about what they feel is best for their particular situations. Their position is that a lack of proximity hurts the natural collaboration of employees at the office and inhibits innovation and the bottom line.

There’s also an underlying concern about the work ethic of teleworkers. This old-school mentality asks: “If employees are working and no one is around to see it, did they actually do the job?”