A number of Atlantans are breathing a little easier this morning because the Georgia Senate didn’t decide to gut our city. The Mayor had a nice little statement he put out on Twitter about it yesterday, almost immediately. While I didn’t think this bill would have success, I was surprised to see it failed by only ten votes. That’s a lot closer than it should have been, IMHO. This tells me the Mayor still has work to do and that the good relationship he has with the Governor needs to extend further into leadership as well. I have a few suggestions on how to approach that.
Economic development on a regional level. Last year I visited Tulsa, OK, and had the pleasure of meeting the Tulsa Mayor. I admired his shared focus on economic development for the area rather than just his city alone. His right-size approach for what fits where was what he attributed as making the area grow. Atlanta doesn’t need big box stores, but Chamblee, Smyrna, or Brookhaven seems to welcome those. Looks like northwest Georgia also likes those. Great! Send them their way! Let us foster other businesses that can be scaled here.
Workforce development that benefits our state. Beef up and create metrics of growth within existing partnerships with the College and Career Academy network and the Georgia Northwestern Technical College. There are bright minds and willingness to work all over Georgia. Atlanta calls it ‘hustle’, and the mountains call it grit. Both areas have what it takes to build a business in spades. Create pathways for advancement and exposure to different jobs and you will see the folks in both areas thrive. It appears service industry jobs are high in the Columbus area. Know what Atlanta has a lot of? Hotels, conference centers, and restaurants-some with international locations. Tie the companies in Atlanta to the schools that are producing the workforce they need for training and then watch businesses grow back in their hometown area.
Agriculture and tech are closer than most realize. Understand this bridge and make it work for Georgia. We have a significant food industry in the state. Where do you think that comes from? Agriculture plays a large part in the area’s industry. I’m not saying Mayor Dickens needs to crown the next Watermelon Queen, but if he connected with Mayor Matt Seale of Ocilla, or listened to his podcast, he might find some inroads. Agriculture is also a very tech-influenced industry as well with crop planting and irrigation that require precision to optimize the area of the soil. If Georgia Tech students can identify all the lightbulbs that are out in Atlanta’s streetlights, they can identify how to better optimize crop rotation. I’m betting there are some folks who drink their ‘whiskey clear’ all over south Georgia.
Green Tech. Forsyth County offers a lot of incentives to set up a business, but its weakest area appears to be Green Tech. I’m betting Southface and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability could help them with that. They’ve got the manufacturing companies, they just need to know how to make them more green and efficient.
Are any of these things Mayor Dickens’ job?
But could it build some relationships that might help him along the way?
My bet is Reed’s relationships in the Senate were the ones that helped him the most with solidifying the city’s relationship within the General Assembly. Reed’s relationship with the White House was what solidified his relationship with Governor Deal. If I were Mayor Dickens I’d be setting up some calendar reminders to check in with the Senators from Alto, Brunswick, Roswell, Rome, Danielsville, Carrollton, Cornelia, Marietta, McDonough, and Perry to find out how I could help them. I’d also be working a little more on train infrastructure the President is keen on and reminding folks how much business Norfolk Southern and CSX bring to other areas of our state. I know Mayors are supposed to focus on maintaining their cities well, and I think Mayor Dickens can walk and chew gum at the same time. The extra requirement of the Mayor of Atlanta is that he/she serves as the gateway to the rest of the state.
So Imma need folks at City Hall to stop screwing around and start finding some friends.