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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reed: Atlanta is about winning

Brought to you by Coke!
As usual, this morning's annual State of the City address brought the Metro Chamber's heavy hitters together at the crack of 7 a.m. — the middle of the night as far as some of us are concerned, BTW — for a couple leathery strips of fakon and what looked to be a cross between a frittata and a ShamWow. But, breakfast aside, the event provided a wonderful window into the close, symbiotic relationship Mayor Reed has forged with the Atlanta business community.

Acting as emcee, Coke CEO Muhtar Ken introduced a slick, five-minute video his company had produced about Reed that was so hagiographic the mayor could simply edit it down into campaign commercials and save a ton of money. With WSB anchor Monica Pearson doing the voice-over honors (conflict-of-interest alert!), the video featured glowing testimonials to Reed's leadership from honchos at Delta, the Council for Quality Growth, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and others.

Then Hizzoner himself took the stage to tout his accomplishments: lower crime; more cops; $94 million in cash reserves; 900 children served weekly at the city's "Centers of Hope"; and a budget-busting pension crisis averted.

Over the course of the next 35 minutes, he also revealed some interesting insights and factoids about himself:

• If you want to understand the mayor's approach toward governing, grab a copy of Instruction to Deliver, a 2007 book by a British policy guru who brought modern management techniques to Tony Blair's government. The book instructs elected officials to first take care of the basics — crime,
potholes, etc. — before asking voters to support bigger, riskier initiatives.

• Reed loves chicken; in a pinch, Popeye's will do.

• The mayor cares more about winning than Charlie Sheen. Among this morning's sound-bites: "We will choose to be first again" and "Bet on the city of Atlanta." Listen to they= guy for five minutes and you'll realize that, not only is he intensely competitive and plays to win, but that he's always looking forward to future challenges. Where Shirley Franklin aimed to fix the sewers and make Atlanta one of the best-managed cities, Reed has ambitions to make the city the undisputed commercial, tourism and cultural capital of the Southeast — in part, by crushing the likes of Charlotte, Charleston and anyone else who threatens our dominance. You can call it ego or over-aggro, but we're lucky he's on our side.

The mayor also unveiled two initiatives whose significance will be determined over the next few months. For one, the Atlanta Development Authority, which has largely been focused on doling out tax incentives to developers, is now to be known asInvest Atlanta, with a mission to encourage economic development. We'll be writing more about this in coming weeks.

Also, building on the public-private Hire One campaign, Reed demonstrated a new iPhone app to show the nearest job openings. Sweeping the phone across the crowded ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center, he said, "I see there are jobs available at Starbucks and … McDonalds." Hmm, I can only hope the results are less depressing in a different part of town.

Finally, Reed told us he plans to spend more time out of the office in an effort to win jobs, new businesses and more federal dollars for the city. Sometime today, he and Gov. Deal are again flying to D.C. to meet with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss the Savannah port project. In March, the mayor will be leading a week-long trade mission to China. (You can go along, too, if you've got a spare $3,700.) PDF

The speech seemed quite well-received by the city's business leaders. The love affair continues.

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