Georgia Forward meeting in Macon seeking “big ideas”

By Maria Saporta

MACON – A gathering of 200 statewide leaders from all sectors has come to Macon State College for an all-day forum on how to move Georgia forward.

The Georgia Forward Forum has been put together by Atlanta-based Central Atlanta Progress in an inaugural effort to unify the whole state.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert compared the meeting to the thawing that occurs in the spring.

“Renaissance thinking begins slowly and surely with an increase in warmth and light,” Reichert said Wednesday morning. He described his audience as “forward looking people who gaze into the future, making plans to build what we need and to protect where we live.”

Reichert said this was an opportunity to bring together business, education, civic and government leaders “to look at and think about our common problems, and more importantly, common opportunities.”

In Macon, the Knight Foundation has provided a planning grant to see how it can best link its largest institutions and attractions along the College Hill corridor — from Mercer University to the historic downtown area.

Reichert said Macon is working on plans to help get people out of their cars and to help create spaces where people can walk and be part of a creative cultural community with transit-oriented design.

“We want to make sure, most importantly, that we don’t foul our nest,” Reichert said.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, said that in the eight months that he and Amir Farokhi have been working on the Georgia Forward initiative, they have realized that there are ground-breaking plans in communities throughout the state. but that there is little knowledge or exchange of information about what is happening statewide.

Farokhi put it this way. “We don’t read the same state newspaper. There isn’t one,” he said, adding that this gathering had representatives from all over the state, including big cities and small cities.

“Be open to new ideas. Be open to big ideas,” Farokhi said. “We want this to be a place that facilitates big ideas for Georgia.”

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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