LINK™: Visiting Other Regions to Help Address Issues at Home
Every year, the LINK™ program takes the region’s most influential leaders to another metropolitan area in North America to learn about new ideas and approaches for dealing with the issues and challenges facing metro Atlanta.
The LINK program began in 1997 as a way to build on the remarkable level of regional cooperation that occurred in conjunction with Atlanta hosting the Centennial Olympic Games. Indeed, the trips have helped metro Atlanta leaders get to know each other much better, strengthening these critically important relationships.
LINK 20th Anniversary
During each trip, leaders from the Atlanta region have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with their counterparts from other regions. They explore solutions and exchange ideas for improving the Atlanta region and fostering positive community change.
The LINK delegation has seen first-hand how public art is reshaping Philadelphia communities and learned about new kinds of transit in San Diego. In Vancouver, participants visited “complete communities” built to accommodate people of all ages. And in Washington, D.C., the group saw how transit has sparked walkable development across the region.
LINK participants have brought a number of good ideas home with them:
- The regional public opinion survey from the Kinder Institute at Houston’s Rice University inspired ARC and its partners to launch the Metro Atlanta Speaks public opinion survey, which helps inform regional planning and decision-making.
- The Mayor’s Roundtable in Chicago sparked the creation of the Metro Atlanta Mayor’s Association.
- And Seattle’s Prosperity Partnership served as a model for the Atlanta Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy.
2018 LINK Trip to San Diego
LINK returned to the San Diego region in 2018 to learn about San Diego’s successes and struggles since the group’s last visit in 2001. On one hand, the region has grown ridership of its Bus Rapid Transit system that was merely a discussion 17 years ago, and has become one of the hottest job markets in the U.S. for biomedical and high-tech fields. On the other hand, a lack of housing that’s affordable for the working class has forced many Americans, including members of the military, to live on the Mexican side of the border, and has left even more of them homeless.
LINK participants were inspired by the way businesses and governments of the “CaliBaja Megaregion” seamlessly worked across the U.S.-Mexico border in both directions to ensure the best possible life for residents on both sides. They commented that national politics were far removed from the lives of Americans and Mexicans who depend on each other every day for their livelihoods. More than once, LINK participants commented that we sometimes can’t communicate across a county line, but they make it work across an international border.
For the second time, a group of about 20 LINK veterans split from the larger group for one day and dived more deeply into issues that are critical to metro Atlanta. They visited a privately-owned border crossing facility designed to expedite the process, and had an intimate meeting with local officials from both sides of the border. Later, they learned that leadership can come from anywhere as they heard from some “regular” San Diegans who are doing great things through a nonprofit called RISE San Diego.
- Report from 2016 LINK Trip to Dallas-Ft. Worth
- Report from 2015 LINK Trip to Toronto
- Report from 2014 LINK Trip to Philadelphia
- Report from 2013 LINK Trip to Houston