Creating jobs depends on improving metro transportation

There’s only one way to look at transportation, says Chris Cummiskey, chief of the Georgia Economic Development Department. Does it help or hinder job creation?

Chris Cummiskey

Chris Cummiskey

On the positive side, he said, Hartsfield-Jackson and the Savannah-Brunswick ports help enormously when he tries to woo companies here.

On the negative side, well, you know. You live it everyday. Traffic congestion in metro Atlanta is a considerable hurdle to overcome when he talks with prospects. That’s why he thinks it’s critical for voters to approve next year’s transportation referendum on a 1 percent sales tax to fund about $8 billion in projects in metro Atlanta.

“Unemployment is too high in Georgia,” said Cummiskey, 36, who was named to his post by Gov. Nathan Deal six months ago. “The referendum has everything to do with economic development — gaining jobs. It’s integral to the economic future of Georgia.”

That future depends on how Georgia plays its cards in the increasingly competitive game of corporate recruitment, said Cummiskey, a UGA grad.

“It’s like college football recruiting. There’s bad-mouthing by others,” he said.

In addition to transportation, Cummiskey said Georgia is vulnerable to attacks over water and primary and secondary education. States like Tennessee and Alabama have been “closing the gap” with Georgia when it comes to luring jobs, he conceded. But he still thinks “we’re a leader.” (I have my doubts.)

To maintain and then widen the gap, he said, developing an effective recruitment strategy has become even more important. To do that, Cummiskey and the head of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Chris Clark, will hold strategy sessions with business and community leaders throughout the state starting next week. Created by Gov. Deal, the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative is charged with developing a game plan by the fall.

That includes making sure the state’s current focus for creating jobs coincides with our primary strengths. The state has been concentrating on five industries — advanced manufacturing (including aerospace and autos), agribusiness, energy, logistics and life sciences.

Should that list be changed or does it still make sense? The meetings will help answer that question, Cummiskey said.

During our interview, he was particularly bullish on trying to lure manufacturers of large equipment, given the rising cost of fuel that can make overseas sites less competitive. The wide variety of courses offered by Georgia’s technical colleges, combined with the state’s Quick Start program, which provides free worker training at new and expanding plants, helps when recruiting factories.

On the biotech front, Cummiskey cited the strength of our universities. But the state remains behind the curve when it comes to providing access to the venture capital needed to commercialize the ideas coming out of academia. In fact, he said, Georgia remains the only state that prohibits a portion of its employee pension funds to be used as venture capital.

“I personally think it needs to be changed,” he said.

So do I. It’s been talked about for years, but nothing seems to happen in the Legislature. So we lose promising businesses to other states. Given our abnormally high jobless rate, isn’t it about time to change that?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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13 comments Add your comment

StopNStart

June 14th, 2011
11:37 am

“On the negative side, well, you know. You live it everyday. Traffic congestion in metro Atlanta is a considerable hurdle to overcome when he talks with prospects…”

And the most attainable fix, which everyone’s known and talked about for years, is to SYNCHRONIZE THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS. This is not rocket science. Stopping traffic at every block/every intersection causes needless delays and congestion, wastes enormous amounts of fuel and compounds our air pollution problem.

BobBobberson

June 14th, 2011
12:19 pm

I agree with StopNStart. It is ludicrous to stop a three lane road in the morning to allow one car to turn left. Make the lights blink green for the three lane and blink red for the 1 person who wants to turn to allow them to make the turn whenever it’s clear.

Mr. H. Jublome

June 14th, 2011
12:39 pm

The fact that Atlanta has not synchronized its lights on major corridors, like Peachtree Street, and despite having needed synchronization for the decades, seems to indicate that the city cannot do anything right.

The next time you drive 100 feet, stop for a light, then drive another 100 feet to go through the same time-wasting drill, take a second to recognize how poorly Atlanta is run.

I call for anarchy.

Itsmeagain

June 14th, 2011
1:05 pm

Do you really think synchronizing the lights is going to fix all our traffic woes?

GreenlightmeansGo

June 14th, 2011
3:14 pm

I agree that synchronizing the lights would good start, however we still need mass transportation options to remove some of the heavy traffic. Vote yes for the Penny tax!

OnTheMend

June 14th, 2011
6:46 pm

Synchronizing lights will do lots to help with congestion, certainly. Then there’s the issue of congestion on the interstates. Why do people choose to live 10, 20, or even 50+ miles from where they work? Give tax breaks to those who travel 3 miles or less to work each way!

more buses

June 14th, 2011
9:49 pm

they need more buses down in clayton county! I’m tired of waiting 30 minutes for a bus to get to work. Without buses, people down here can’t get to work. I’m getting tired of this and may move back to jersey where they have good buses.

artesian jacket

June 14th, 2011
10:13 pm

Please move back to New Jersey if it suits you. I am sure there are other parasites willing to take up the slack in Clayton County the epicenter for entitlement mentality.

TnGelding

June 15th, 2011
3:19 am

Like the pension funds are flush with cash. Let’s err on the side of caution for a few years. Don’t you know it’s the rich folks that invest and create jobs for the rest of us? That’s why we’re in such high cotton. Just cut their taxes even more. Never mind that they’re already at historical lows.

regional transit plan = more jobs

June 15th, 2011
8:45 am

Hey folks, until we have a regional transportation plan in metro Atlanta, we will continue to loose jobs to other cities such as Houston, Nashville and Charlotte.

Fewer jobs = less money in our pockets. Atlanta has a bad rap for awful traffic issues and companies looking to relocate plants and corporate offices here are well aware of this.

So, we can ignore this and shrink our economy even more and watch other cities prosper, or maybe we can do something about this.!!

regional transit plan = more jobs

June 15th, 2011
9:14 am

for instance….. In the past year, Marriott, Hilton, Intel & Boeing have all relocated their headquarters to DC. Microsoft is scouting the Charlotte area for a new plant facility.

That’s probably 3000 jobs that WILL NOT be coming to the Atlanta Area.

it's smarta

June 15th, 2011
11:28 am

let marta run everything—they know the deal and have the expertise to develop plans needed for the whole state. Put all their people in charge and give them all the money they need.

both

June 15th, 2011
7:26 pm

synchronizing lights, adding left turn lanes or restricting some left runs, fully funding the tow trucks that quickly remove freeway accidents, and realigning intersections so you don’t have 5 points-you only have 2 streets intersecting at one point would do more to improve traffic than any billion you could spend on rail.