Georgia senator: Atlanta suburbs need to get on board with mass transit

Credit: David Wickert

Credit: David Wickert

State Sen. Brandon Beach has a message for suburban Atlanta communities: Get on board with mass transit or get used to losing out on Amazon and other big corporate prizes.

On Friday the Alpharetta Republican said Cobb and Gwinnett counties and his own north Fulton County are suffering the economic development consequences of their long-time aversion to public transportation. He said they’ll have to change their attitude.

“We have to get Gwinnett and Cobb in the (regional) transit system,” Beach told a crowd at an Atlanta Regional Commission summit on the future of transportation, drawing applause. “We have to bring them into the fold.”

Amazon is hunting for a second corporate campus, and Georgia is eager to get in on the action. But the Cobb and Gwinnett need not apply – the company has said access to mass transit is a must for the eventual winner.

Beach is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. His day job is CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, so he knows a thing or two about economic development. And he offered some observations at a panel discussion on how Atlanta can get “world class infrastructure.”

Fifteen years ago, Beach said, CEOs often chose where to locate their companies by where they wanted to live. If they wanted to live in Sugarloaf Country Club, they located in Gwinnett, he said.

Today, they want to know where their talent lives. And, increasingly, Beach said they don’t live in the suburbs because there’s little or no public transportation.

“These kids don’t want to go up to Gwinnett County,” the senator said.


Beach noted that Gwinnett lost NCR's headquarters to the Georgia Tech area. And his own Alpharetta lost Athenahealth to Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Mass transit was a common denominator, he said.

Beach rattled off other companies that have decided to locate near transit lines, including State Farm, Mercedes Benz and Pulte Homes.

He said the Atlanta region needs Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties to have a seamless mass transit system to compete for business.

Fulton and Gwinnett counties will complete mass transit studies in coming months. Cobb also is wrestling with mass transit in light of Amazon's preference for communities that have it..

Ultimately, Beach thinks economic development imperatives will bring them all get on board a regional transit system.