Opinion: Metro Atlanta poised for a prosperous, vibrant future

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently kicked off a series to provide critical analysis of metro Atlanta post-Recession in comparison to Charlotte and Dallas. The overarching question the series is looking to address — “Are we positioned for the future?”

With a global economy driven by innovation, remaining competitive for the future requires developing and retaining talent, attracting innovative companies, and developing new technologies. When examining our progress in these areas, metro Atlanta is undoubtedly poised for a prosperous and vibrant future.

Since 2012, when the Metro Atlanta Chamber launched its five-year strategic plan, the state of our regional economy has consistently improved. With the ninth-largest population in the nation and largest economy in the Southeast, GDP for our 29-county region is up from $296 billion in 2012 to $307 billion in 2013, a 3.7 percent increase. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have recovered all the jobs lost during the recession and Moody’s Analytics projects 78,000 net new jobs for the region in 2015.

Atlanta’s innovation economy is thriving as well. The region is a hub for fast-growing technology sectors such as financial technology, health IT, mobility, cybersecurity, and digital media and entertainment. In 2013, companies in metro Atlanta attracted more than $566 million in venture capital funding, while Dallas attracted $487 million and Charlotte, significantly less, with $28 million according to CBInsights. Exit activity in the region has also been strong coming out of the recession. From 2010-2013, Atlanta was very competitive with Dallas, averaging 65 mergers and acquisitions per year, while Dallas averaged 69 and Charlotte averaged only 12.

The ability to produce and attract local talent in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a key component to growing innovation-based industries and driving a strong innovation economy. In 2012, metro Atlanta institutions conferred more than five times the number of STEM degrees (8,192) as Charlotte (1,471) and nearly twice as many as Dallas (4,475). Metro Atlanta ranks fifth in the nation, at $1.5 billion, in annual university research and development (R&D) expenditures. University R&D expenditures for larger metros like Dallas are significantly less, roughly $500,000 per year.

As we work to continue to grow our economy, create jobs and attract the best and brightest from around the world, we are committed to tackling tough issues. We know that addressing our current and future infrastructure needs is critical. Metro Atlanta’s economic success has long relied on our position as a transportation and logistics hub and our ability to safely and reliably move both people and goods. The recent introduction of the transportation funding act, H.B. 170, to generate new funding annually, is a huge step to ensure that we have the capital we need today and in the future to support our transportation infrastructure.

At the end of the day, we all want a strong and prosperous region and I’m proud to say that our business leaders are working together to promote innovation by driving real solutions that will continue to move this great region forward.