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CATLYST Aims to Foster Regional Economic Competitiveness

Posted on: Jul 06, 2017

What must be done to ensure that metro Atlanta remains a vibrant, thriving region that is competitive on the global stage?

The Atlanta Regional Commission has convened a diverse group of leaders from across the region to address this critical question.

The 65-person steering committee – representing a broad range of economic development organizations, nonprofit groups, and businesses – is developing a regional economic competitiveness strategy to drive our economy forward.

This five-year planning and implementation effort is known as CATLYST. The goal: ensuring metro Atlanta has a steady supply of good jobs, a well-trained workforce, and regional collaboration needed to catalyze economic growth throughout the region.

As part of the initial planning process, CATLYST is seeking public input on the future of the region’s economy. Take the CATLYST Community Survey to help identify the region’s most critical challenges.

Take the Survey

“When it comes to economic competitiveness, it’s critical that we take a regional approach,” said ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker. “Atlanta competes as a region nationally and globally. It only makes sense for us to work together to build a stronger region.”

Keith Parker, GM/CEO of MARTA, and Rohit Malhotra, Executive Director of the Center for Civic Innovation, are among 65 CATLYST Steering Committee members developing a regional economic competitiveness strategy.

To be sure, the Atlanta region has much going for it. The region has a well-educated population and has become a significant hub for research & development and venture capital funding. In the past year or so, metro Atlanta is adding jobs at one of the fastest rates in the nation.

Yet, many challenges remain. Income gains are increasingly being enjoyed by the top tier of wage earners. The region trails some of its key competitors when it comes to providing young people the education and tools they need to succeed. And there are sizable economic disparities between racial and ethnic groups.

Building on Success of Pilot Program

CATLYST formalizes a pilot program that ARC launched five years ago. This initial economic competitiveness effort resulted in some real success stories, including the development of a regional marketing alliance that is collectively marketing metro Atlanta as a great place for businesses to locate and expand.

The pilot program also played a key role in helping develop Learn4Life, a regional education initiative that seeks to improve education outcomes and workforce readiness. Learn4Life, which launched in 2016, is a collaborative effort supported by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the United Way of Greater Atlanta.

“Collaboration is key to the CATLYST process,” Hooker said. “It will take the entire community, working together, to ensure our region’s future success. Our competitors, from Charlotte to Shanghai, aren’t sitting still — and neither can we.”

Steering Committee Members Discuss Promise of CATLYST

CATLYST – Economic Development

“Think about your everyday life. Do you really live and function in one little [part] of metro Atlanta? No, we all go outside of the lines. And so the economy of all the communities in metro Atlanta, they’re linked together. Our success is linked together. So it’s got to be a regional approach, because that’s the way we really operate. Those lines, they really only apply to politicians.”
– Bentina Terry, Senior Vice President, Metro Atlanta Region, Georgia Power

“[Metro Atlanta’s biggest challenge is] doing all the things to make sure that everybody has a fair shot at success. And that means transportation, education, and social equity. If we don’t solve that problem, what we’ll end up with is a community that’s deeply divided, and one that can’t sustain itself.”
Keith Parker, General Manager/CEO, MARTA

“We are all part of Atlanta. And whether you’re inside the perimeter or outside the perimeter, we’re all part of the region. And when we market ourselves to the community across the nation and globally, we’re talking about Atlanta and Cherokee County and the state of Georgia. So it’s really important for us to participate in regionalism.”
Misti Martin, President, Cherokee Office of Economic Development

“[CATLYST] highlights what ARC does best, the convening power. If you see the meeting that we just had, the folks who were in the room were really incredible. That they were able to give two hours of their time, and we really had decision makers at the table. And so CATLYST with this kind of dialogue is going to be a tremendous force for moving the region forward.”
Amol Naik, Head of External Affairs, SE, Google Fiber