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8:30 AM on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, at the Georgia World Congress Center

I want to thank Ingrid Sanders Jones and the Coca-Cola family for assembling that. But I personally want to thank Muhtar Kent, my friend, for all of the time and energy that he has given to the Coca-Cola company and to the city of Atlanta before I was mayor, but certainly since I’ve been Mayor.

I want to thank Mr. Keough for being here this morning as well. Our growing friendship means a great deal to me.

I had a lot of time to spend with the Coca-Cola family this year as we celebrated the company’s 125th anniversary. I think that deserves a round of applause.

I said when we recently moved the Coca Cola formula from the vault of the SunTrust bank over to the World of Coca Cola that Coca-Cola had been a gift to the City of Atlanta … that it literally runs through Atlanta’s history.

But I believe that Coca-Cola is Atlanta’s gift to the world. The city has greatly benefited from their generosity. Thus far, the Coca-Cola Company has invested $1 million in programs related to my administration but not the usual programs that are just for credit or praise of some kind. But programs that focus on children and young people. You know, improving their lives.

So thank you, Muhtar, and thank you for everything that you’ve done for me.

I want to acknowledge Ceasar Mitchell, the council president. Please stand and let everybody see you.

Working with the council president … everything we accomplished in those videos, we accomplished together. I am also very delighted that so many outstanding members of the Atlanta City Council are here. I’m truly blessed to have a council that works as hard, as diligent, as independently as this council works. Will the members of the City Council please stand so the people of Atlanta can see and thank you for the work that you do?

I just want to be real clear on how special the partners I have they are. They provide robust oversight for the City of Atlanta. They push back. They debate. And they are an essential part of the success that the City of Atlanta is having.

You know this is a special time for me. This is my third state of the city.

And I had the pleasure of growing up in the city. And then having on the day I was sworn in on Jan. 24, 2010, having my mom and my dad hold the Bible when I was inaugurated as the 59th mayor. I am also blessed that my mother and my father are still with me. Mom and Dad, will you please stand up?

I also want to thank my stepmother, Dr. Rogsbert Phillips – we call her Zell … so I got a little tongue-tied – for being here as well as my brother Carlton and my brother Tracy.

And I know my brother Chuck is somewhere. He might be asleep.

But this is where we are. On Monday, we had another great day for our city when we celebrated the 83th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King and whenever we have … I think that deserves a round of applause.

I really think that is a special moment for us because it really gives us a moment to pause and look at where we are. And it really does remind us that Atlanta through all of its challenges and through all of the difficulties really is best when we dream. And what I believe is ... is certainly since 2007 … we have been going through extraordinarily difficult times … all of us in the public sector and in the private sector. We have been managing through times that are as tough as any that anybody has seen in the United States, certainly since 2007.

And I believe that when you go through the kind of extraordinarily tough times that we go through, you begin to focus on your own situation and your own circumstances really because that is what is required because your first obligation is to provide for yourself and your family.

I do believe that that can put you in a posture of beginning to simply survive.

And what I think is just surviving leads to just surviving.

So it’s fundamentally unhealthy. You see, I believe that modern leaders ... leaders that history will remember … will always be performing on at least two tracks. Probably three tracks or four tracks.

And that is, one, they will be focusing on being an outstanding steward of the institution that they’re in, but also worrying about it in 10 years, 20 years and 30 years and 40 years. Those are the leaders of the future that will be remembered. But we must never stop dreaming.

And we must never stop being aspirational.

When I ran for mayor, I read a book over and over and over again. It was a book by a gentleman named Michael Barber, and it is called Instruction to Deliver. And Instruction to Deliver really focuses on Tony Blair’s first eight years as the Prime Minister in Britain when they were really implementing a series of outstanding reforms. And the world was taking notes.

The point of the book is actually very simple. The thrust of it says that if you are the leader of a public entity or of a complex organization, and you really want to do something that is special you have to take care of the fundamentals.

Because if the fundamentals are not taken care of, then you will never be able to galvanize the public will so that they will come with you in the big things that you ask them to do. So if you really want people to believe and invest $2 million in the Centers of Hope for children and young people, you better make sure that when folks are walking to their cars in a parking lot that they are safe. You better make sure their trash is being picked up on time. You better make sure that you care about those potholes. Because if the fundamentals are not there, they won’t come along with you on the bigger journeys.

I think we have moved ahead.

If you look back at the two years we have been together. We meaning me and my administration and this Atlanta City Council. We have partnered to reform this city and take on the tough challenges, and I think we are making a difference. Two years I stood before you, and I promised you that we will make our city of Atlanta safer.

Together this city council and my administration under the leadership of George Turner have hired more than 400 police officers today. We have cut crime across every single zone in the city of Atlanta by between 10 percent and 16 percent depending on the zone. And we have stood up the largest police force in the history of the city of Atlanta and stood up a video integration center to start expanding our force through the use of technology.

Under Chief Cochran, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department is much stronger. There In the last 24 months, we have hired 75 more officers funded by a $9.8 million grant from the Obama Administration. So we are moving there.

I stood here in my first state of the city, and all of us were rightfully concerned that our city needed to get up off of its knees. My predecessor Mayor Franklin had made some extraordinarily tough decisions in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 as we entered the worst part of this recession, and we have stayed in it.

But by partnering with the Atlanta City Council, by using the talent that they have, by adding people from the private sector like Peter Aman, who gave up two years of his career with Bain and Co. to come and work for the city of Atlanta, we have grown the audited cash reserves from $7.4 million to $94 million in cash in the bank right here right now.

What does that mean?

It means that when Sam Williams is recruiting a corporation to the City of Atlanta or when the governor of the state is recruiting a business to the city of Atlanta and they pick up the phone and they call the city of Atlanta to try to close that relocation opportunity and ask you for economic incentives to partner with them as an equal partner that you can say yes with the approval and support of council.

What that means is that we are becoming strong again.

And I believe that next year when we have our State of the City, the cash reserves for the City of Atlanta will exceed $108 million, which represents 20 percent of the general fund. Which means the City of Atlanta will start being able to invest in the $1 billion infrastructure backlog we have all been talking about but we haven’t been able to do anything about.

We’ve balanced two budgets working with this council … with this council president. We finished our fiscal year 2010 with $10 million in excess cash. We finished the fiscal year 2011 with $2 million in excess cash, and that was including the money to get the city moving after the snow storm kicked my behind.

For a long time in the city of Atlanta, we’ve talked about permitting. The construction and development industry is to our city what the automobile industry is to Michigan, what the financial services industry is to New York, what motion pictures are to Hollywood. Although we are gaining on Hollywood in the motion picture business.

We reformed that process. We passed four pieces of sweeping legislation that put the permitting process for the city of Atlanta into an independent general fund. We then got 15 executives from the private sector who went out and hired Don Rosenthal to run the department, and they selected him 15-0 unanimously, and we are reforming our permitting process so when the economy comes back ... guess who’s going to be ready?

The City of Atlanta is going to be ready.

Y’all, when we stood here last year, I was giving a hundred speeches running around talking about the pension this and the pension that. And I know folks were sick of me talking about the pensions. But you know what? Two years ago, everyone knew that the City of Atlanta owed $1.5 billion to its current and retired employees. Everybody knew that the liability was growing and growing and growing. But nobody wanted to take it on.

I am so proud about this city because this council president, this city council and this business community got in a room and decided that we were going to change that future. That we were going to improve it ,and when you look around the United States of America, when you look at other states and other cities where they have reformed their pension processes, there is somebody yelling at somebody or that there is somebody who is talking about how bad labor is or somebody trying to bash the business community and talking about how bad the business community is. You’re not going to hear that from me as mayor because I don’t believe that you can love jobs and hate business at the exact same time.
It does not work.

But you can invite your work force in. You can sit around a table and treat people with respect and dignity. And you can change when you get new information that should cause you to change. And you can’t be so macho when somebody has an idea that is better than yours that you absorb the better idea if it moves the city of Atlanta forward. That’s when we are at our best.

So where are we today?

We passed our pension reform 15-0 after all of the conversation with the support of our unions. And we are meeting our obligation. We are paying down on a $1.5 billion liability that if left unchecked if we had had the exact same market performance of the last 10 years would have grown to $4 billion. The City of Atlanta has no remedy for a $4 billion problem.

So I’m here to say thank you. I here to say thank you to the business community that stepped up. They didn’t send surrogates to the meetings on pension reforms, they sent CEOs. We raised $1.7 million privately so that we could have the best solutions available. It was a terrific example that represents a model for how cities in America should perform. I would put my city council and the business community in the City of Atlanta against anybody’s in the world.

We’re making real progress.

Two years ago, I said that it was no longer enough that Atlanta was the city that was too busy to hate. But we must also be a city that is not too busy to love. I want to thank you today for showing your heart. Today as we stand here, we have received $2 million in private philanthropy for the Centers of Hope. We have opened every single recreation center in the city of Atlanta. We have opened every single pool in the City of Atlanta. We’ve launched two pilot programs. One at Adamsville, which is run by the YMCA and another that is run by the Boys and Girls club in Thomasville.

And I will tell you … I will tell you a secret. The feedback that I get from the Centers of Hope is the most rewarding that I get in this job.

Everybody who knows me … that my love of chicken is well known. And one day after having a particularly challenging day, I was in the Popeye’s on Ponce de Leon trying to have a quiet time before two more speeches in the evening. I saw a mom come in with her two sons, and I saw her stare at me, and I saw her sons look over at me.

And I remember that day that I was not feeling very mayoral so I tried to look at my chicken extra hard.

And the mom grabbed her two boys, and they walked out the door and I thought I had gotten away. I thought I didn’t have to speak. But she came back, and she came back with her two little boys, and she said, “I know that you are eating but since you’ve opened the Thomasville recreation center I get to spend more time with my boys, and I wanted to say thank you.”

We are now helping 900 kids a week in the City of Atlanta that didn’t have that before.

We are a special city.

You know a year ago before this speech. Ed Baker gave me a call. And he said he wanted to come by and see me. He had an idea. Came by with no fanfare. Quietly. We sat in my library, and we talked. He said he had this wonderful idea. He said that he had an idea that if we encouraged businesses to hire just one employee that we could really make a difference in this town. And that people should stop crying about the unemployment situation and really try to do something about it if you were able to help.

Didn’t ask for any credit. He said that any business that goes out and hires one employee full time … verified ... we would put in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and hold them up as a company that was doing its best to try to get our economy moving again.

One year later, I stand here today. Ed Baker is at my table. One year later, more than 1,400 companies took up that challenge and more than 15,000 employees have been hired. People that did not have a job before.

Ed, I want you to stand up please.

But we’re not going to stop. We are also going to innovate. So today we’re going to announce Tweet My Jobs. Because we’re innovators in the city of Atlanta, and today we are going to expand the Hire One Atlanta using a technology that delivers relevant job listings instantly to job seekers via Facebook, Twitter, email or mobile devices and takes advantage of these connections for job referrals and introductions.

And right now, if you go to you will find about 85,000real jobs within the Atlanta zip codes and more than 100,000 jobs within a 50-mile radius.

And, Reese, if you will bring up a device I want to show it to folks.

Using this new technology, you can literally take out your mobile phone. You can scan the room, and it will literally tell you the jobs near where you are standing. So right now there are two openings at Starbucks Coffee Company, 3060 Cascade Road. There are two openings at a McDonald's. It’s a new technology that is innovative, and it show s that Atlanta is on the cutting edge. Atlanta is the first city in America to implement it. That is the Atlanta way.

So I want to say, “Take that, Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Emmanuel.”

I’m sorry I couldn’t resist.

In our spare time, we recruited EUE/Screen Gems to the City of Atlanta. We sold City Hall East to Jamestown Properties where we will have foreign direct investment. Just think about City Hall East. It was a more than a one million square foot building that is now being completely renovated. It’s going to be state of the art. It’s now called Ponce City Market. We had about $600,000 in carry costs related to City Hall East, and now we will have more than half a billion dollars in investment over the next 10 years.

Working in partnership with the FAA, we reclaimed the old Ford Hapeville site where Fords used to be built. And the City of Atlanta now owns that property and the headquarters for Porsche North America is going to be built on that old site.

Under Louis Miller’s leadership, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has remained the busiest passenger airport on the Planet Earth, was rated the most efficient airport in America and won the Bond Buyer deal of the year award for our $1.5 billion debt offering. And make no mistake, we will open the international terminal on time and on budget in the spring in 2012.

But each of you in your own way has also reminded me that cities have souls.

And now that we have stabilized this ship, we have much work to be done to deliver the soul of this city. So I am pleased to announce that Bloomberg Philanthropies has funded the city of Atlanta with a $3.1 million innovation delivery grant that will fund Kristin Cavanaugh and Susan Lampley’s work in the area of homeless and innovation.

So maybe I should take back that comment to Mayor Bloomberg. You can give a round of applause for that.

Consistent with that work, the city of Atlanta has engaged in the Better Buildings Challenge. Under AJ Robinson’s leadership and the Central Atlanta Progress’s partnership, we have had 21 million square feet added to Better Buildings Challenge.

I want to tell you why this is important. The Better Buildings Challenge advocates that we reduce energy use by 20 percent. This is important because as vertical construction slows down, we don’t want construction workers skills to atrophy. So by retrofitting the 21 million square foot of the buildings we have in Atlanta, we will make them more energy-efficient, we will make the city of Atlanta stronger, we will improve our environment and we will put hard-working women and men in the construction trades back to work.

I am also pleased that Denise Quarles will be joining me to lead the sustainability effort for the City of Atlanta … so we will be moving robustly in that direction as well.

Now, what are we going to do in the future?

I believe that in the future for us to ensure that Atlanta remains the center of economic activity in the South that we have to pass the TSPLOST that will be voted on next year. Now Governor Deal has done an outstanding job in negotiating the water difficulties between Alabama and Florida. We got a very good decision from Judge Magnuson with regard to the use of withdrawing water from Lake Lanier. Today, I will get on a plane with Gov. Deal and go and work with the Secretary LaHood in Washington to deepen the port of Savannah. So that we that are ready in 2014 when the Panamanian ships come through the Panama Canal.

The Port of Savannah is the fastest growing port on the Eastern Seaboard. And its health and success matters to the City of Atlanta.

But the TSPLOST, which will be voted on next year, really is the most significant thing we can do to ensure that our future continues to rise. Just think about it. A few months ago, you had 21 elected officials from rural and urban metro Atlanta - Democrat and Republican - and stand together and cast a unanimous vote for a $6.14 billion transportation infrastructure program. Now , think of that. We worked through a $20 billion transportation list and whittled it down to $6.14 billion and did so in such a way as to show respect for one another but that will also address the two biggest challenges facing our region. One is the challenge we have in regard to well-paying jobs and employment and two is with regard to how we address traffic challenges in the city of Atlanta and the metro region.

If we dream again, if we look up, if we believe in who we are, we will pass TSPLOST and make sure we meet the challenge that faces us today. And I’m so pleased that so many people who have been supporting the TSPLOST are here.

If the TSPLOST passes, the Atlanta Beltline, which has received more than $38 million in philanthropic support will receive $602 million in additional funding. MARTA will receive more than $600 million in capital improvement funding, if the TSPLOST passes.

That’s more than $1.2 billion for the City of Atlanta as part of that initiative. For some comparison, just think… when we built out the Olympic games, the hard investment was 3.6 billion hard. It powered about $60 billion in economic development through the year 2007. Just imagine what we will do if the combined amount of investment around the TSPLOST, Including the federal match, is more than $9 billion.

We will begin to dream again.

We will begin to show that the metro region is the most dynamic in the Southeast.

So we’ve got a lot to do.

Now is the time for us to expand our international business alliances and build upon the alliances we’ve made with countries like France and Saudi Arabia, Great Britain and Qatar as well as create new and stronger ones. If we are going to continue to create jobs in Atlanta, we are going to have to go after them wherever they are available.

And I will go wherever I need to go to generate well-paying jobs in the City of Atlanta. I don’t think you can create the jobs of the future by sitting my office at City Hall.

That’s why you should consider this a personal invitation to join me on a trade mission to China in March. I honestly don’t think you can become a true global city without creating a strong, economic relationship with China.

And we are going to do that.

Most importantly, now is the time to invest in Atlanta itself. Jobs and competitiveness are among the two most important things the people of Atlanta need right here, right now. Folks are worried not only about whether they will keep the jobs that they have or that they will be able to make sure that their children have opportunities or that their grandchildren have opportunities in this city.

We have to make sure that the answer to that question is yes.

And we are going to do that beginning today.

The City of Atlanta is rising again and adapting to the economic environment of our times and finding new and modern ways to approach new and lasting business development.

And that’s why I am pleased to announce today that the old name for the Atlanta Development Authority is out of date and won’t be used anymore. As of today, the new name for the ADA is now … officially … Invest Atlanta.

Y’all can clap for that.

Invest Atlanta will continue to honor the historic mission of the authority but it will add components to ensure that Atlanta can compete in a 21st century globalized environment. Brian McGowan, who joined us last May, from the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue as president and will lead a dynamic new team to revitalize Atlanta’s economic development strategy and to partner with the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber and the State of Georgia tell and sell the story of Atlanta not only to cities across the United States but cities across the world.

We have set goals to make Atlanta the No. 1 place to start a business in the U.S. To that end, Invest Atlanta will focus on increasing the number of small businesses, business start-ups, and numbers of patents and percentage of Atlantans who own their own businesses.



That’s how we mix it up a bit.

The bottomline is this, folks.

I want to be very clear about one thing this morning.

We are going to choose to be first again. There is tremendous power in deciding in the city of Atlanta. This city has been built by business people and political leaders who believe that we were always more than we were ever given credit for being.

They chose to be first.

This town is an intentional town. And we’ve got to be that again. And I need this council and this business community to lift up our heads and be proud of it.

Bet on the city of Atlanta.

Every single time, that we had leaders that made the hard decisions at moments of challenge, we won.

When Mayor Hartsfield decided to acquire the land for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, we won.

When Mayor Ivan Allen decided that he was going to testify in favor of the Civil Rights Act in 1963, it changed the course of Atlanta and probably ended his political career.

When Mayor Samuel Massell decided that he was going to champion the creation of MARTA in the City of Atlanta, it passed by a thousand votes. We won.

When Atlanta decided that it was going to host the Democratic National Convention, and people snickered. Our community joined together, and we won.

When Billy Payne and Ambassador Andrew Young got on planes and flew around the world to convince the people that we should host the Olympic Games … not on the first ballot or the second or the third.
We won.

When Mayor Maynard Jackson convinced the federal government to move a highway so that he could build Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on time and on budget, this city won.

That’s who we are.

When Shirley Franklin was told by the federal government that she had to stop granting water permits or figure out how to fund $4 billion in water and sewer infrastructure ... had no idea how to do it. The council, the government and the civic and business community came together, and we won.

For some reason, we have forgotten that. All these victories ... all of these things … they came from you.
We are the stewards for this now.

We all live in cities that we did not build and run organizations that very few of us built. The measure of us is, what is the state of the institution when we are done with it. When you have given your time, your energy and your talents and your passion to that institution will you go home and look in the mirror and say it was worth it, that we won.

So on the TSPLOST, on water, on education, on caring for our people, we are going to be first. And make no mistake, and we are going to win and the people are going to be beneficiaries of it.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Last updated: 3/28/2012 3:29:41 PM