By Maria Saporta
The second annual France-Atlanta symposium opened Wednesday — forging partnerships in business, technology, education and culture between the French and Georgians.
France’s ambassador to the United States, Francois Delattre, said such a comprehensive partnership does not exist anywhere else in the country. In fact, Delattre said the France-Atlanta event could become a model and an inspiration for other U.S. regions and France.
France-Atlanta was the brainchild of Pascal LeDeunff, the French consul general in Atlanta.
“Innovation is the driving force of this project,” LeDeunff said at the opening reception at the Melia Hotel in Midtown. “Last year, there were 3,500 participants. among the positive outcomes was the signing of a memo of understanding between the City of Atlanta and the Paris airports.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed embraced the strengthening of the relationship between Georgia and France, and said he was “absolutely delighted” that the France-Atlanta event was in its second year.
The mayor said that Paris, France is one of the best cities in the world, and that Atlanta can benefit from the deepening ties in business, the arts, culture and science.
Reed said he was able to visit Paris earlier this year — the first time he was able to spend some significant time in the City of Lights.
“I don’t think that you can want to be a city of excellence and not be moved by Paris,” Reed said. “There are so many things about the city that lifts your spirits.”
Reed was especially impressed that Parisians are investing $50 billion in their transportation infrastructure in the next decade with plans to add another 80 miles to its comprehensive transit system.
“That influenced my way of thinking,” said Reed, especially during the negotiations on what transportation projects the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable would be included in the final list.
“At the same time, we are moving faster on our airport,” said Reed, adding that Atlanta will be able to provide its expertise as France tries to improve its operations at Charles de Gualle Airport.
The theme of this year’s two-week France-Atlanta event is: “Together Toward Innovation.”
On Wednesday, the all-day topic was on the Green City of the Future. Both Atlanta and the major cities in France are trying to implement policies to make them more sustainable with a reduction of carbon emissions.
“We have already reduced our carbon footprint by 12 percent since 2010,” Reed said. “I’m not an expert in the sustainable space, but what I do know is that we have a responsibility to future generations because we live in cities we did not build.”
When looking at the nation’s most sustainable cities, Atlanta was ranked 21st out of 27 several years ago. Reed gave credit to his predecessor — Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin — for getting Atlanta’s ranking in the “teens.” But Reed said he wouldn’t be satisfied until the City of Atlanta was among the top 10 most sustainable cities.
Reed said that after going to Paris in the past year, he could easily develop an inferiority complex because of the city’s beauty and how well it works. But by having a close relationship with France can only be a positive influence on Atlanta.
“When we have visits like the France-Atlanta exchange, it helps like each other a little more,” Reed said. “It can help us create a sustainable environment for ourselves and for our future.”
To find out more about all the France-Atlanta events taking place through Nov. 12, go to www.france-atlanta.org.