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South Metro Development Featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle

Managing Partner of The Collaborative Firm and Founder of the South Development Michael Hightower wrote an editorial that was featured in the July 24, 2015 issue of the Atlanta Business Chronicle regarding the South Metro Development Outlook Conference. The 2016 South Metro Development Outlook Conference will be held Thursday, February 18, 2016 at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.

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Celebrating South Metro’s ‘vast potential’

The 2015 South Metro Development Outlook conference can best be described as a meeting of the minds where many of the key leaders involved in the continued growth and development of South Metro convened to share ideas, celebrate successes, and discuss future advancement opportunities.

The Collaborative Firm continues to host its annual SMDO conference at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park because, simply put, it makes sense. The convention center is well-positioned with Porsche, a global namesake, at its back door and the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, in its wings. Both the airport and this area serve as the first impression of our city, our state, and our country for many. For this reason and countless others the importance of the region (including the counties of Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Henry, South Fulton and Spalding along with the southern portion of Atlanta) must continually be recognized, celebrated and pursued.

The 2015 SMDO sought to do just that. Accolades were cast upon South Metro by Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, who spotlighted spawning developments occurring during the conversion of Fort Gillem and with the construction of Kroger’s new million square foot distribution center. His sentiments were echoed by Roger Tutterow, a celebrated national economist, who forecasted positive growth for distribution and logistics industries in the area.

Throughout the conference the vast potential of South Metro was acknowledged and future successes were celebrated. Discussions about South Metro’s blooming film industry were led by Scott Tigchelaar (The Walking Dead), Brian Hooker(Tyler Perry Studios) and Jim Pace (Pinewood Studios). The acknowledgement of economic development being the cornerstone of success for South Metro was clearly articulated by including Mary McClanahan, director entrepreneur and small business development, Georgia Department of Economic Development; Larry Vincent, chairman of Clayton County Development Authority; Al Nash, executive director of Fulton County Development Authority; and Craig Richard, president and CEO, Invest Atlanta. The current chairman of Clayton County Board of Commissioners, Jeff Turner, along with Keith Parker, general manager and CEO, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; Joseph Folz, general counsel and secretary, Porsche Cars; and Miguel Southwell, general manager, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, highlighted the ongoing efforts to improve transportation in the area.

The SMDO conference also provided an occasion to pay homage to some people, programs and businesses in this region. Two of this year’s honorees included Gov. Nathan Deal who received the SMDO Visionary Award in recognition of his unwavering commitment to have this region become the Hollywood of the South. And the Outlook Award was bestowed upon MARTA in conjunction with Clayton County for their tireless work to return service to the area.

I am excited about SMDO 2016 which will be held on Feb. 18 at the GICC. As we look to the future, I envision a region full of additional development opportunities, filled with millennials. Additionally, Comcast’s investments in broadband infrastructure to support economic development and quality of life, with the availability of 2G service combined with Google’s ultra-high speed internet, will make South Metro a destination for technology industries.

As a member of the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance Board, I plan to provide an update on the board’s blueprint during the 2016 conference. Finally, given the importance of education in the region, I have added an educational component to the agenda, assisted by Clayton State University and others.

Michael Hightower is an Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance Board Member and the founder and managing partner of The Collaborative Firm LLC.


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