Highlights from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s State of the Region

On Friday, October 27, 2023, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) hosted its annual State of the Region event at the Georgia World Congress Center. The event featured award recipients and guest speakers to celebrate our region’s progress, discuss potential challenges, and highlight opportunities. The ARC’s theme, “One Great Region,” called for unity across Atlanta’s 11 county metro area.

The Council for Quality Growth applauds our members the Novare Group and ARCC Capital Partners for receiving Regional Excellence awards during the event.

One Great Region

ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong opened the State of the Region with a light, A.I.-based quip before presenting the audience with a list of regional economic challenges. Residents of the Atlanta metro area worry most about crime, the economy, and transportation, according to an ARC survey, and Armstrong highlighted key issues within these concerns like housing affordability and personal savings. He was followed by ARC Executive Director Anna Roach who urged us to come together and leave no neighbor behind. She proposed five goals for the region:

  1. healthy, safe, livable communities – via the Livable Centers Initiative, affordable housing, and public transportation funding, for example
  2. reconnecting the region – by improving infrastructure and air quality with the ARC’s Climate Change and Resilience program
  3. a competitive economy – that invests in workforce development to accompany the many new jobs and residents moving to the region
  4. diverse stakeholders – all having reasonable proximity and access to public facilities like hospitals
  5. operational excellence – in delivering and building out regional services with transparency and citizen involvement

The morning’s keynote speaker, Mitch Landrieu, discussed the once-in-a-generation opportunity we have to achieve these goals. Landrieu is a former New Orleans mayor and Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, and current senior advisor to the White House’s Public Infrastructure initiatives. Drawing upon his experiences after Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu emphasized the importance of “rebuilding communities and building common ground… the right way.” He encouraged the audience to take a moment to reflect on how their city could be, and should be, in the future.

Landrieu also underscored the significance of partnerships between federal, state, local, and private entities, and how widespread cooperation provides a unique opportunity to build “a new South.” Referencing restorative programs under leaders like Lincoln, FDR, and Eisenhower, he indicated the potential for positive change through President Biden’s initiatives, such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Georgia in particular stands to benefit significantly from these policies, he said, with substantial funding ($6.7 billion) allocated for essential infrastructure elements like affordable internet and public transit. Landrieu’s address then called out the Atlanta region, emphasizing that the center of the South is well-positioned to lead in our nation’s rebuilding. “Let’s get to work and get it done,” he concluded.

Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States

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Misti Martin, President and CEO of Cherokee County’s Office of Economic Development, advocated for nurturing individual strengths in education and career choices. Traditional education isn’t for everyone, Martin said, and as companies consider Georgia for their operations and facilities, they will heavily weigh the state’s quality of workforce training just as much as its higher education. Martin therefore believes that trade schools and vocational programs are a critical option for our children and future workforce. She urged the audience to encourage trade school for high school graduates and highlighted her county’s involvement in the “Be Pro Be Proud” initiative, which works to place high schoolers into technical college programs at no cost.

Public policy lawyer Amol Naik shared his parents’ immigration journey to the United States and the opportunities Atlanta has offered his family. Naik emphasized that the American dream is alive but often less accessible in Atlanta, which he said has one of the country’s lowest upward social mobility rates. The key need for our region, he argued, is equal access to the internet. Naik urged the audience to address the “digital divide” in economic mobility by improving access, affordability, and digital literacy. Georgia’s broadband initiatives and more funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program are crucial to bridging this digital divide, Naik said.

Regional Excellence Award Recipients

Innovative Development — ARCC Capital Partners, Tenth Street Ventures, and Alexander Goshen — for their affordable micro-apartments at “12 Hundred Studios”

Visionary Planning — the City of Fayettville and HKS — for their initiative “Moving Fayetteville Forward”

Great Place — the Annie E. Casey Foundation — for their co-working space at “Pittsburgh Yards”

Livable Center — the City of Lawrenceville and the Novare Group — for “The Lawn” park and “Lawrenceville South Lawn” mixed-used development

Honorable mention — the City of College Park and developer Booker T. Washington — for their tiny home development “South Park Cottages”

Leadership Award Recipients

Harry West Visionary Leadership Award — Joe Bankoff for 40 years of contributions to Atlanta’s legal and art communities, and his mentoring of leaders in the region

Unsung Hero Award — road and highway construction workers for the Georgia Department of Transportation, specifically honoring the late Sean Kornacki and Michael Woodall