2015 SOTC from ATL26 on Vimeo.
2015 State of the City: “Bring and Build Your Dreams in Atlanta”
Good morning, everybody. Today is a special day for the City of Atlanta -- a day for us to celebrate our past accomplishments and to set the course for new ones. Today by almost every measure, our city is better off than when we took office five years ago.
First, I want to express my gratitude to City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and the distinguished men and women who serve on the Atlanta City Council. Please stand and let everyone see you.
I would like to welcome Chief Judge Sloan and the members of the city’s judiciary.
I also say welcome to all other elected officials and honored guests. Thank you for being here with us today.
So much of what we have accomplished would not have been possible without our partners in the business community. The Coca-Cola Company has been a steadfast partner with the City of Atlanta for decades. Because of its generosity, there are young people all over the City of Atlanta who now have an opportunity to learn, grow, and play in safer and healthier environments.
So thank you, Coca-Cola, for everything that you do for the City of Atlanta.
To members of my cabinet and my senior staff, thank you for your unwavering support. Please stand and let everyone see you.
I want to acknowledge all of the members of Atlanta’s Consular Corps and thank them for their essential partnerships and wonderful friendships.
It is my high honor to welcome the Governor of our State, Nathan Deal and our First Lady, Sandra Deal. Please stand.
And now I want to extend my deepest gratitude to my family and friends for their unconditional love and support – my wife Sarah-Elizabeth, my parents Junius and Sylvia Reed, my stepmother Dr. Rogsbert Phillips-Reed, and my brothers Charles, Carlton and his wife, Joyce, and my brother Tracy and his wife, Crystal.
And, finally, I want to acknowledge all of you, the people of the City of Atlanta. Whether you were born here or retired here, whether you work at City Hall or at a city business, thank you for making Atlanta a place of which we can all be proud.
It’s been an incredible year, not only for the City of Atlanta, but for me personally.
My wife gave birth to our daughter, Maria Kristan, in June. Becoming a father has been an amazing experience. And it’s got me thinking -- now, more than ever -- about the future.
I find myself asking, “What kind of city will we leave behind? How can we ensure that the Atlanta of the future fulfills the promise that lies in the Atlanta of the present?”
What we’ve seen happening over the past year gives me great hope for our future. It’s made me optimistic about what kind of place we’re building for my daughter, for your children, and for the next generation.
Amid the most difficult financial crisis in over 80 years we’ve seen a convergence of business relocation, business creation, and new development that shows our city is getting stronger and stronger every single day.
So how did we get there?
First, we ensured the strength of our fundamentals.
Our pension reform effort which will save $270 million dollars was affirmed after a recent court challenge
There’s the fact that, because of the changes that we’ve made over the past five years, we’re in solid financial health. We haven’t raised property taxes in 4 years and we’ve balanced 5 consecutive budgets.
We’ve grown our cash reserves from 7.4 million dollars to more than 138 million dollars, and will finish this year at 142 million dollars in reserves, because we were disciplined, because we did not break, because we did the work and did not yield to the moment or take the easy way out.
There’s the fact that rating agencies have taken notice of Atlanta’s fiscal health. Standard & Poor’s increased Atlanta’s bond rating by two positions, which is very rare for a major American city, while Moody’s recently revised their outlook on our bonds from stable to positive.
After 15 years, the Port of Savannah will be deepened in order to accommodate larger, Panamex ships. This will strengthen our state’s economy and our region’s economy, not least of all because it will support more than one-hundred thousand well-paying jobs.
This project also shows what great things happen when people from different levels of government, from different political parties, and from different sectors work in a cooperative fashion.
Then there’s the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which has an enormous impact on the Southeast region and the Atlanta area, supporting more than 400,000 jobs, attracting new businesses to the region, and supporting commerce by positioning Atlanta within two hours of 80 percent of GDP in the United States of America. It continues to be the number one passenger airport in the world for the 17th year in a row.
And then there are the more than 50 universities in our metropolitan region, which provide us with the fundamental advantage of talent, merit, and ability.
There’s the fact that we’ve maintained the third highest concentration of Fortune 500 businesses in the United States of America.
There’s the fact that instead of retiring from New York to Florida, talented baby boomers are deciding to shorten their retirement trips and head to Atlanta, where they bring their talent, intellect, and drive, and continue to have a positive impact.
There’s the fact that Atlanta is attracting millennials at a rate that’s competitive with anywhere else on the Eastern Seaboard.
And finally there’s the fact that businesses are noticing all of this and moving into Atlanta at unprecedented levels.
From Buckhead to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, business creation and business relocation are expanding rapidly by any way you want to measure it.
Worldpay, a global leader in payments processing, announced they’re bringing 1,200 jobs to Atlantic Station.
Porsche Cars North America is building their 100 million dollar headquarters right next to the Airport. I’m already thinking about my first drive on the new test track. I hope they’ll still let me ride when I’m no longer Mayor.
Pulte Homes, Carter’s USA, Serta Simmons, and Prince, the tennis racket manufacturer, all recently moved their headquarters to Buckhead.
Bounce TV, the nation’s only national over air television network for African Americans, moved its headquarters into the heart of Buckhead, where they are producing original content seen in three-quarters of homes with televisions in the United States.
Cardlytics, Mail Chimp, Athena Health, and Twitter are moving hundreds of employees into Ponce City Market.
The Coca-Cola Company is expanding its IT staff Downtown. That’s 2,000 jobs.
Mercedes-Benz USA is moving to metropolitan Atlanta. That’s 800 jobs.
And just when you thought we were finished, we announced in January that NCR, the world’s leading consumer transaction company, is moving to Midtown Atlanta. They’re building a four acre, 250 million dollar global headquarters that will have tens of millions of dollars of economic impact. It will house 3,600 jobs.
Behind every one of these jobs is a full refrigerator, a paid mortgage, a child who can dream of college.
Thousands of jobs. Hundreds of millions of dollars invested in new corporate headquarters. All across the City of Atlanta, and all because of you.
Along with all of these business announcements and their related job creation, we’re also witnessing a rebirth in development throughout the City of Atlanta. This development doesn’t simply boost our economy but our safety, too. As blight is transformed into buildings, lagging areas are transformed into leading ones.
This year alone, I attended the grand openings of two transformative new attractions in our main tourism corridor—the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame.
A few miles north of here on Peachtree Street, we celebrated the grand opening of Buckhead Atlanta.
For years, the area where it stands today was two empty holes in the ground. But now it’s a 1 billion dollar mixed-use development with high-end retail, apartments, and office space.
Ponce City Market, for years an old, dilapidated Sears building of more than two million square feet, is now teeming with two hundred million dollars of investment and innovation.
In 2017, the 1.4 billion dollar Atlanta Falcons stadium will be completed. This stadium will host the NCAA Final Four in 2020. And we are excited to have the 22nd franchise for Major League Soccer also compete in this state-of-the-art facility.
We’re making sure that families of all income levels and with any interests always have something wonderful to do in the City of Atlanta. That’s why we’re making big changes to Grant Park.
The Cyclorama is an invaluable City and historic asset, and moving it to the Atlanta History Center will give it the attention and showcase it deserves.
We will soon begin work on the biggest expansion in the history of Zoo Atlanta, including a new special events center and a restaurant overlooking a savanna filled with some of the world’s most majestic animals.
We just broke ground on the Atlanta BeltLine’s new Westside Trail, the largest expansion of the BeltLine in its history, and a forty-three million dollar public-private investment in the future of southwest Atlanta.
At Fort McPherson, Tyler Perry will be building his new film studio, which will bring new vitality and hundreds of high-quality jobs to South Atlanta.
In the near future we’ll see new developments rise up at the Civic Center and Turner Field.
As a result of this effort, we’re seeing a new energy brought to our downtown core -- for tourists and residents alike.
Hotel occupancy in Atlanta hit a record high in 2014 -- up 8.1 percent from last year, which ranks Atlanta number one in growth in the United States among the top 25 tourist destinations. Alongside the new Falcons stadium and where we sit this morning, a beautiful new 800-1200 room hotel will soon rise up from the ground.
And where an often-empty parking lot sits now, Post Properties will soon invest more than ninety-three million dollars in construction on one of the first new apartment building in downtown Atlanta in more than a decade.
We just sold Underground Atlanta for 25.8 million dollars to a firm that’s going to bring mixed-use retail, housing, and a grocery store to the Five Points area.
And on December 30, thanks to the largest TIGER II federal grant awarded in America, we officially opened the Atlanta Streetcar for passenger service -- a full one day earlier than I promised it.
We’ve already seen revitalization and over 300 hundred million dollars in development in the historic neighborhoods that it serves along its 2.7 mile route. Neighborhoods like Sweet Auburn, Edgewood, and the Old Fourth Ward are all sharing in the prosperity that comes with being connected to the 45 million people who came to visit our city last year.
Increasing in ridership every day, the Streetcar will serve as a critical element of our long-term regional transportation vision, one that creates connectivity by integrating diverse types of transportation -- the Atlanta BeltLine, the Streetcar, rail -- so that all of Atlanta can experience all of Atlanta.
So it’s a great time to be in our city.
The question now is - how can we keep the momentum going?
The first thing we have to do is retain our technology graduates, no matter where they’re from.
For example, as it stands, only 50% of Georgia Tech’s graduates stay in Atlanta.
These are the people who create new businesses and attract the relocation of existing ones in the technology sector, which will be vital to Atlanta’s future prosperity.
We must develop a plan that will retain five percent more of our technology graduates each year, until at least seventy-five percent choose to remain in Atlanta.
We need to involve local tech students outside of the classroom, through internships and community service, to strengthen their connection to the city and to demonstrate to them that Atlanta is a place where their skills are needed and valued.
And as we bring NCR to Midtown, right across from Georgia Tech, we need to bring financial infrastructure to technology students, so that they know Atlanta is the place where, after they graduate, they can build their own companies.
Just as we want to keep our college graduates in Atlanta, we want to enable APS graduates to attend Atlanta colleges. Through the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency’s Mayor’s Youth Program, ninety-six students received scholarships last year. This program awarded an average of nearly seven thousand dollars to these students -- more than Pell grants or the HOPE Scholarship provides. This support changes the financial equation for attending and staying in college. We need to have more of that.
I also believe we need to make a concerted effort to ensure that women are given equal opportunities.
As your Mayor, I want to lead by example. On Monday, my administration will introduce legislation to the Atlanta City Council to ensure that all women employees of the City receive equal pay for equal work.
And we need to support more women in becoming entrepreneurs. Just last week, I announced the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, a new effort to support and empower women business owners in Atlanta, chaired by Home Depot’s CFO, Carol Tomé.
The same day Goldman Sachs announced Atlanta is one of only a handful of recipients of the 10,000 Small Businesses grant program, bringing management education, legal support, and capital to small businesses here in Atlanta.
And that’s not the only thing we’re doing in venture capital. I’ve assembled a group of Atlanta business leaders to create a venture capital fund for local start-ups valued at twenty five million dollars. This will prove transformational for local entrepreneurship.
Our start-up communities and budding entrepreneurs received a big boost with the seminal announcement that we made last Tuesday: Google Fiber is coming to Atlanta. A fiber-optic network will be installed throughout Atlanta and eight metropolitan area cities, expanding access to ultrahigh-speed internet, furthering Atlanta’s global reputation as a technology leader, and providing the technological infrastructure needed to lead the 21st century economy.
We must also aggressively pursue foreign direct investment. One of the world’s leading cities should attract the world’s best support.
This investment has led to 2,700 foreign-owned facilities, creating more than 130,000 jobs in metropolitan Atlanta. Invest Atlanta, with the support of my office of International Affairs, closed on four projects last year alone. These projects have a total economic impact of over $450 million and support 2,500 jobs.
Right now, your city is among the top ten in the U.S. for foreign direct investment.
We’ve got to compete for that investment and to welcome that investment.
Atlanta must never shy away from its responsibilities as a global city. We lead by welcoming immigrants. Atlanta has the second-fastest growing foreign-born population in the United States by percentage, which is one of the reasons I’ve committed Atlanta to lead the charge on immigration -- joining the Welcoming America initiative, creating the Welcoming Atlanta Working Group, and being a vocal supporter of federal action in this realm.
We’re always at the forefront. When criminal justice issues flared up in our country, Attorney General Eric Holder made Atlanta the first stop on his national tour to discuss the problem.
It’s our legacy as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: to push the country to become the best version of itself.
We are pioneering the use of body cameras on our police officers, and when the President began to advocate for their expanded use, Atlanta stepped up and supported that initiative.
We lead by our community policing, continuing to build a police force that resembles the population it serves. It should be so, and it will be so.
We call ourselves the City too busy to hate. We can make sure that remains true by working together -- government, the business community, and the non-profit sector.
We know that collaboration is possible. I assembled a Waste and Efficiency Commission, co-chaired by Councilmember Howard Shook and Delta CEO Richard Anderson, to come up with ways to streamline the City of Atlanta’s government.
The Commission came back with 100 million dollars in recommendations for reform.
I’m already acting on one of the Commission’s recommendations by finding private partners to develop some of our city’s more underutilized assets -- like the Atlanta Civic Center, Turner Field, and Underground.
The reason I called the Commission together is because we needed to find a way to fund improvements to our roads, bridges, and green spaces.
Atlanta currently faces a nine hundred million dollar infrastructure backlog. And I didn’t want to put the burden for paying for it on the backs of taxpayers. I believe our citizens pay enough, so we will pay for these improvements without raising taxes.
On March 17, we’ll put a bond referendum before the voters. We’ll ask if they want the City to raise up to 250 million dollars to finance long-overdue projects.
We want to replace streetlights to make neighborhoods safer. We want to repair and replace bridges to connect communities. And we want to synchronize traffic lights to ease commutes and get you home to your families faster.
We want to make the most significant single investment in modern times to improve the look, feel and experience of our city.
And we can’t afford to wait to make these investments.
That’s why I’m taking advantage of the momentum we have around the Atlanta Streetcar. I’m pleased to announce that my Administration has taken the first steps to connect the Streetcar with the Atlanta BeltLine.
By laying three-quarters of a mile of track, we will connect two transformational developments and make clear our vision for transit and mobility in Atlanta.
That’s why I am so proud of the voters in Clayton County who brought us one step closer to realizing this vision, when in November they approved the largest expansion of MARTA in its history. They made a bold statement: the Atlanta metropolitan region stands together.
I’m talking about economic mobility too. Better access to transit gives people more opportunities to be employed in well-paying jobs.
And we can’t leave anyone behind. That’s why I, with the Atlanta Committee for Progress, launched the Westside Future Fund, attracting investment in the neighborhood, catalyzing health, education, and quality of life solutions, and it will ensure that economic development is fair and equitable. When we achieve all of these things, we will show that an inclusive economy beats a trickle down economy every day.
My Administration is planning to transform an abandoned quarry site into a drinking water reservoir surrounded by what will be the largest public park in the City - bigger even than Piedmont Park.
Combined with the restoration of Proctor Creek, I believe Atlanta is on a path to become one of the greenest cities in the nation.
I share all of these accomplishments and plans with you to show you where we are going, to provide a map of our future.
In the future, every child, in every quadrant of the City, finishes a great day at school with a safe, healthy place to spend their afternoon, be it a Center of Hope or on the BeltLine. Every high school graduate has the opportunity to attend college, and every college graduate has the opportunity to work in Atlanta, in a career that they’ve dreamed about.
And in all aspects of life people feel welcome and at home here - regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
Where people all across the United States and the world look at Atlanta and say: that’s where I want to be. That should be us.
That’s not only our vision. I’m here today to tell you: it’s our destiny.
A dear friend recently shared something with me that really got me thinking about Atlanta.
As the general David Shoup once wrote, “The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball, they fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they try many things.
The man or woman who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He is the one who never tries anything. His is the brake on the wheel of progress.
And yet it cannot be truly said that he makes no mistakes, because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing, does nothing, except criticize those who do things.”
The question becomes, what are we fighting for?
Everyone may not always agree with what I do as Mayor of Atlanta, but I believe that everyone will agree that we are trying.
We must be fearless. We need to feel that restlessness, that sense that the best is yet to come, and accept the risks associated with acting on that feeling.
And if all of this happens -- if we work together to secure our city’s foundation through infrastructure improvements and community-building; if we support our young people from the cradle to college; if we retain more of those who graduate from our great universities; and if we adapt our economy to the increased role of technology -- I believe that the best is assured for us.
After all, there’s something uniquely American about Atlanta -- about how Atlanta became what it is today.
We didn’t begin with the natural advantages of being situated on a major river or ocean. We burned to the ground twice.
Atlanta had to rebuild, to work hard. Atlanta had to create a leading airport, to develop preeminent universities, to struggle for the Olympics.
For us, it has always started with a decision -- that, against the odds, Atlanta would be Atlanta, a place of safety, prosperity, and happiness.
And today we decide that Atlanta will be Atlanta -- for the rest of our lifetime and for our children’s. A place where what’s dreamed is achieved. A place where what’s achieved is achieved together.
It should be so, and it will be so.
Thank you, and God Bless.