Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO talks downtown vision with Monica Pearson

Katie Kirkpatrick discusses how her civil engineering degree translates to her current job.

Metro Atlanta Chamber President Katie Kirkpatrick shares with Monica how an engineering degree helps her solve problems in Atlanta.

Back in the 1980s, Katie Kirkpatrick, the president and chief executive officer of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, followed a path few women were taking. She pursued a civil engineering degree at Auburn University.

Her path to running an organization focused on making the 29-county region an attractive place for businesses started with Gold Kist, which began as an agri-services co-op based in Carrollton. It was her first job out of college.

“I think the toughest lesson that I have had in my professional career was when Gold Kist went through a hostile takeover,” she tells Monica Pearson. “So this is a company where I’d grown up in it, I had been hired for my first job, I fully expected to retire from the company.”

Metro Atlanta Chamber President & CEO Katie Kirkpatrick speaks during the unveiling of the new marketing campaign, “Where You Belong,” at the St. Regis Hotel, Monday, April 22, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

Following her departure from Gold Kist, she began her career at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, starting in environmental affairs in 2007 and eventually becoming president and CEO in 2020.

Her problem-solving skills as an engineer have served her well in that role. “Give me something that is complex, really involves lots of partners and lots of different viewpoints,” she said. “To me, there’s something incredible about bringing people together to solve a complex problem.”

One such problem is creating a sustainable vision for downtown Atlanta, and, Kirkpatrick says, “thinking about downtown and what it means, connected to the rest of the region, it really is the heartbeat. So we have to take care of our heart, right?”

“Most people don’t realize that 50 million plus people pass through our downtown annually, and oftentimes it is their only impression … So it’s really important for that first impression to matter.”

Kirkpatrick also talked about preparations in Atlanta ahead of the World Cup games in 2026, falling 30 years after the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996.

Atlanta will host eight matches in the 2026 World Cup, including a semifinal game, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“You can look back and see that our growth really accelerated at a high rate post Olympics,” Kirkpatrick said. “So we know the economic impact from having these large global events really makes a positive impact on our region.”

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