Atlanta Forward / Another View: Protect Atlanta’s position in the world

Recently, top business and government leaders from 34 countries across the Western Hemisphere came to Atlanta to discuss opportunities for how to compete in a global marketplace. The return of the Americas Competitiveness Forum to Atlanta — for the third time in four years — validates Atlanta as a vital business connection for the Americas.

The 1996 Centennial Olympic Games thrust Atlanta onto the international stage. Since then, Atlanta’s international presence has grown to more than 2,400 international companies employing 148,000 people in the region. We also have 65 countries represented by consulates, trade offices or investment agencies. There has also been success with local companies expanding their reach around the world. Today, metro Atlanta is home to the nation’s fourth-highest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the country, the world’s busiest airport and a network of world-class universities and colleges.

The city and metropolitan area have made great progress. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We are continuously competing with cities throughout the United States and the world to maintain our global position, which is helped by hosting events like the Americas Competitiveness Forum. However, to continue to grow and prosper, metro Atlanta must remain flexible in an ever-changing global economy.

So, how does metro Atlanta remain relevant?

First, it must focus on its strengths, such as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Our airport is one of the top reasons that metro Atlanta has transformed into the “global gateway,” serving nearly 90 million passengers annually. When a country has direct access through flights from our airport, the result is an increase in trade with Atlanta and Georgia. In the last decade, our airport’s passenger volume increased by 7.8 million people, of which 3 million were traveling internationally.

Second, metro Atlanta must focus on its wide range of resources, such as its 57 universities and colleges that enroll more than 222,000 students annually. Our universities and colleges strengthen metro Atlanta’s position nationally and internationally as a leading destination for companies, especially from the bioscience and high-technology sectors.

Third, metro Atlanta must continue to build on its existing global ties and strengthen its connections around the world. This is done by bringing business to the region, and by working to open new consulates and trade offices.

Even with the competition we face in today’s global marketplace, Atlanta continues to make great strides to strengthen its global position as the city where the world comes to do business. The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Global Commerce Council and many others remain committed to helping Atlanta prosper as a top international business city.

Christian Fischer is executive vice president of the packaging segment for Georgia-Pacific and chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Global Commerce Council.