Originally published on AJC.com.
By Howard Franklin
For the sake of communities large and small, Georgia must invest in its cities, from Atlanta to Zebulon.
Where cities live, people and jobs live. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the Peach State grew by 18 percent over the past decade, with most of its 1.5 million new residents settling in metro Atlanta and north Georgia – in cities like Gainesville, Athens, and Braselton.
As government becomes smarter and prioritizes investments for the greatest return, cities offer a track record steeped in innovation. With creative and tech-savvy professionals, high-density residences and resilient job centers, cities are leading the way out of the global recession.
Georgia is poised to take advantage of this trend and accelerate its economic rebound. By investing in education, supporting public transit and strengthening urban infrastructure, the state can bolster its cities and buttress interconnected, downstate economies.
Too few local officials have been engaged in transformational projects, like the effort to pass metro Atlanta’s T-SPLOST. But there are still plenty of opportunities to lead, especially if the state finds ways to support, rather than stymie, their involvement. Lawmakers’ virtually unanimous commitment to deepening the Port of Savannah, for instance, is a step in the right direction.
Another opportunity? Georgia could coordinate the various local marketing campaigns aimed at attracting employers and tourists to all corners of our state, from the mountains to the coast, with countless pockets of charm in between. That kind of leadership would result in a statewide branding effort we all can be proud of.
Georgia boasts plenty of great places to live, work and learn. But in order for the state to compete for jobs across the country and around the world, we must see our cities as our secret weapon.
Howard Franklin is a political strategist and a partner in the public affairs firm www.InfluenceFactory.com.