JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Opinion: Seeking new ways to better this metro

Successful regions, like businesses, are smart to stay aware of what other thriving metros are doing to stay competitive. The ARC’s LINK trips are designed to discover such insights.

A single-minded push and focus on the future lifted metro Atlanta onto the list of places that can legitimately claim to be standouts in this nation and world. Getting there required for a long time keeping our focus on a prize that shimmered in the distance ahead of us. What The Atlanta Journal’s Editor Jack Spalding wrote in a column 50 years ago this month still holds true: “Atlanta has come a long way by looking forward and not backward.”

Staying in this good, and profitable company requires nothing less than that, we’d suggest. A related, important tactic to keeping this region a power center is keeping a close eye — and open mind — on what our peer metros are doing. This sort of competitive benchmarking is common to successful private- and public-sector entities, we believe.

A great example of this sort of intelligence-gathering is The Atlanta Regional Commission’s annual LINK trips. The ARC takes key people in this region on a focused journey to a great city each year. The general intent is to see what other cities are doing to succeed, in good part by finding innovative solutions to challenges that are pretty common to big cities. There’s a tactical focus to the LINK trips as well; they’re organized with an eye toward discovering ideas that can be brought home to metro Atlanta and successfully deployed here.

Several important public-sector initiatives that arose from LINK trips are familiar to many here. Today’s writers on this page cite several of them.

In his 1969 column, Jack Spalding spoke to the importance of this work: “Change is all right for the only things which don’t change are dead things and the places which are afraid of change are at least half dead.”

That warning, thankfully, does not describe our metro Atlanta, then — or now. Being open to exploration and innovation such as that uncovered by LINK trips can help keep us that way.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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