Mayor Kasim Reed: Expand Atlanta’s global business identity

Moderated by Rick Badie

Mayor Kasim Reed writes about a “metropolitan export initiative” designed to strengthen the global business identity of the Atlanta region and expand business opportunities with overseas markets. Reed’s plan creates city-to-city partnerships to bolster the area’s global competitiveness. Two state Department of Transportation officials outline that agency’s plans to make Georgia a “Golden Gateway of Choice.”

By Kasim Reed

Over the past three years, Atlanta has become a safer, financially healthier and stronger metropolis for business, science and technology. However, to meet the post-recession jobs challenge and become a leading world-class city in a 21st century economy, we must work harder.

At Wednesday’s Global Cities Initiative forum, sponsored by the Brookings Institution and JP Morgan Chase, I will highlight the region’s assets: the nation’s third-highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies; the world’s busiest passenger airport; globally renowned research universities; a broad and engaged consular corps; a talented and diverse workforce, and a solid transportation and logistics infrastructure.

The world landscape is changing quickly. We compete not only with cities like Dallas, Chicago and Miami, but with Dubai, Chengdu and Mumbai. These emerging international markets shouldn’t be seen as a threat to our survival, but rather a tremendous opportunity for growth.

Increasingly, these metros power the world economy and drive demand for goods, products and services. For the first time in recorded history, more than half the world’s population lives in cities and metropolitan areas, surpassing 60 percent by 2020. Urbanization brings consumer power, with the Asia-Pacific share of the global middle-class population reaching 54 percent by 2020.

To continue Atlanta’s job growth and overall success, we must look outward and tap new international markets. Atlanta is the 13th-largest metro exporter in the U.S. It sent $20 billion in goods and services abroad in 2010 and supported more than 150,000 local jobs. In the U.S.,  more than 75 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is generated in cities.

These are impressive numbers, but tremendous untapped opportunities remain, especially for small- and medium-sized companies that drive sustainable job creation. These companies have the potential to export goods and services, but typically lack the knowledge or internal capacity to pursue international markets. Until recently, promoting global trade as an expansion strategy for local businesses has not been a major focus of our standard economic development activities.

Greater Atlanta needs a dedicated strategy to help more firms become new exporters and assist current exporters in finding new markets. The city of Atlanta is launching a metro export planning process with our regional partners to better leverage our shared strengths, synchronize our efforts, enhance our global business identity and expand local business opportunities with overseas markets.

Over the next several months, with support from the Brookings Institution, Atlanta will assess market opportunities and business needs, develop strategies and begin to implement improvements with significant private- and public-sector support.

Invest Atlanta and the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs will collaborate on this new Atlanta Metropolitan Export Plan with other core partners from across the region that include the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center. UPS has agreed to chair the steering committee, which will include the business community, universities and other local government agencies.

Tomorrow’s world demands fact-based strategic thinking and a bold commitment to becoming more effective and more efficient every day. We have a choice: Respond to the changing business environment and untapped entrepreneurial opportunities or squander a set of assets which positions us to be one of the leading cities in the world.

Kasim Reed is mayor of Atlanta.

State can be “Global Gateway of Choice”

By Toby Carr and Todd Long

As Georgia’s economy regains its footing, business and government leaders are able to focus on economic growth. A key economic driver for the state will be its freight and logistics industry.

The business of moving goods among growers, suppliers, manufacturers, vendors and consumers represents a $15 billion-a-year industry. Five freight and logistics components of our economy — manufacturing, construction, retail, utilities and agriculture — generate more than $100 billion of yearly output. Some economists give those sectors a growth potential of 75 to 200 percent in the next 35 years.

Ports in Savannah and Brunswick generate some $67 billion in yearly sales and $2.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. They provide jobs for more than 352,000 Georgians. An ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal is projected to create a significant increase in freight shipments entering the U.S. via East Coast ports.

The Georgia Department of  Transportation is working with public and private partners to capture this incoming freight. A deepened ship channel serving Savannah and the planned port in Jasper, S.C., will lead to savings of about $213 million a year nationally in reduced shipping costs and ensure Georgia’s position as a focal point of world commerce. A comprehensive Georgia DOT study of all modes of the state’s freight and logistics industry points to possible overall gains of $65 billion and thousands of new jobs during the next four decades.

We will not be able to “wish” ourselves to this reality. We must commit to it in practice.

Working with the Ports Authority, the Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics, and major railroads and industry leaders, we have developed a statewide Freight and Logistics Action Plan ( It is an agenda to make Georgia the “Global Gateway of Choice.”

An investment of $15 billion is recommended; more than $9 billion is just for highways. Among the plan’s highway recommendations:

* Creating more long-haul capacity on I-85 in each direction from Gwinnett County to South Carolina and from Meriwether County to Alabama; on I-75 between Atlanta and Macon; and on Ga. 20 from Douglas County to Alabama.

* Improving I-285’s six metro Atlanta interchanges with I-85, I-75 and I-20.

* Rebuilding the I-75/I-16 interchange in Macon.

* Improving I-95 interchanges with I-16 and Ga. 21 in Savannah.

* Improving other corridors such as U.S. 84 and Ga. 133 in South Georgia and U.S. 441 between I-85 and I-16.

* Improving the “last mile” routes near the Port of Savannah and warehouse and distribution facilities along Ga. 6 on Atlanta’s west side.

These will be expensive and time-consuming projects. Some are under way. We’re seeking innovative ways to deliver the others. Georgia will expand its role as a global hub for freight and logistics.

Toby Carr is planning director of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Todd Long is deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation.



15 comments Add your comment


March 21st, 2013
8:23 am

Kasim Reed could advance Atlanta’s global identity far easier with a deep water port at Savannah. He could tout how quickly goods and services can be moved from Savannah to Atlanta.
2ndly, have a urban renewal project where unproductive areas of the city would be transformed into a gambling mecca for the east coast.
A new state of the art transportation system where visitors could glide into the city effortlessly on a magnetic monorail utilizing kinetic energy.
Now for our sisters and brothers that spend their time panhandling downtown, rather than trying to sweep them under the rugh[euphenestically speaking] point them out how as how well they are treated in this great city.
Want to push the issue that all religions are warmly embraced in this vibrant city of the future.
Kasim needs a vision of the future and act enthusiastically to make the vision become a reality.


March 20th, 2013
10:39 am

$15B for highways? Sure, we’ll just pluck the money off the money tree.

How about helping CSX and NS (railroads) move freight in GA. You’d get huge freight capacity improvements for a mere fraction of that $15B.

The Man

March 20th, 2013
9:49 am

The same SLUG thats putting in a worthless cable car by destroying the streets of Edewood and Auburn avenues. The same SLUG thats throwing an overpriced superfolious football stadium in downtown Atl when the current stadium is still efficent(! BILLION DOLLARS!). This slug needs to be IMPEACHED before he drags Atl so far down into that ground that even Turner/Payne cant ressurrect it.


March 20th, 2013
12:01 am

Don Abernethy @ 10:35 pm – That would never happen. Mr. Reed’s political ambition is on a much lower scale right now. Senator or Governor is in his sights. This is the primary reason I think is for all of the Water Carrying for King Nathan. Kasim has the reverence of being considered one of the ” good ole Boys” by those at the DOME. A rare titled bestowed on one that grew up and was raised in the Southwest side of Atlanta. One who is standing on the many shoulders of those who marched,stood in line, beaten, cursed, jailed and even paid the ultimate price of Death before him to make way for such an annointing. To see it all go to waste for personal political ambition and personal expediency, is quite disheartening for many who are watching and observing it.

The Good Mayor is an extremely effective Legislator. This is what makes his Silence so sickening in its occurrence. No other sitting Mayor of Atlanta has had as much influence on those at the Dome than this Mayor. None in recent memory. If the success of this New Stadium will be his
highlight Legacy moment for rememberance, then he has failed miserably. Surely we as citzens have failed, as well for voting and supporting the choice of ONE with such high expectancy and then to be disappointed with the end result. So far, that appears to be the Road in which we are headed.

Don Abernethy

March 19th, 2013
10:35 pm

Wanna be President Reed is trying to position himself for 2016