A panel of metro Atlanta business leaders called on the business community this week to help bring sexy back to metro Atlanta with the passage of the Transportation Investment Act at the Cobb Chamber’s First Monday Breakfast.
Ed Baker, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle; Dave Stockert, CEO of Post Properties and Chairman of Citizens for Transportation Mobility; and Paul Bennecke, founder and principal of Red Clay Strategies formed the panel. Heath Garrett, partner with Garrett McNatt Hennessy and Carpenter, moderated the discussion of the Transportation Investment Act, a one-percent special-purpose local option sales tax that would be collected over 10 years and used to fund a list of about 150 transportation improvement projects throughout the 10-county metro Atlanta region.
Stockert iterated that passing the Transportation Referendum is important to keep Atlanta competitive and attractive to a younger, more mobile workforce.
“We tend to cater to young, educated people,” he said. “That’s our customer and that’s the lifeblood of our community. We don’t have the same sex appeal that we once did and we’ve got to get that back.”
Baker noted that the metro region needs an edge if it hopes to keep up with the national competition.
“Atlanta’s not a cool place any more compared to a lot of other cities. We need to become cool again (…) It’s not about the people in this room, it’s about who you can get to step up and do the right thing. It’s the business community this time as opposed to the general consumer market that will make this work or not.”
Stockert further emphasized the business community’s importance in passing the referendum.
“It’s up to us though, to carry this thing across the finish line—the business community,” Stockert said. “What I want you to do is walk out of here saying, ‘What can I do to encourage my people, my employees, my friends, family to get out there and turn out this vote. It won’t be done if the business community doesn’t do every single thing it can in the next 22 days to win this vote.”
For Baker, who called Atlanta’s economy “not very good,” passing the referendum just makes sense from a business standpoint.
“Frankly to have the stimulus of TSPLOST to be injected in the community at this time, to re-employ a lot of people and get the economy back in order is something we need in this marketplace,” he said.
Bennecke pointed out that part of the government’s role is to fund transportation infrastructure, but placed real emphasis on the potential legislation’s potential to improve the quality of life for those living in the metro region. He explained how his commute to his office limited the time he could spend with his 10-month old son to an hour a day. As a result, he decided to move his family to Vinings.
“I made a decision and a sacrifice to improve my quality of life,” he said. “There are a lot of people who can’t do that right now because of the economy. So what are you going to do? How do we improve our quality of life?”
While all the panelists made their support of the referendum clear Baker conceded that he didn’t thought the timing could have been better.
“If this had been 10 years ago we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” he said.
Voters decide on July 31 whether to pass the TSPLOST.