In 15 years, South Metro has seen the opening of the second-largest convention center in the Georgia International Convention Center, the opening and expansion of the Google Data Center in Douglas County, a boom in the movie industry on the south side and the move of the headquarters of Porsche Cars North America to the Hapeville area. Those are just a few of the developments taking place in the South Metro area from 2003 to 2017. These and other highlights were spotlighted during the 15th Annual South Metro Development Outlook (SMDO) conference in February.
Held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, the event is the brainchild of Michael Hightower, managing partner, The Collaborative Firm, LLC. SMDO serves as a platform to convene industry experts, corporate executives, government leaders and elected officials interested in fostering economic growth in south metropolitan Atlanta. SMDO highlights Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Henry, South Fulton and Spalding counties as well as the city of Atlanta. This year, Cobb and DeKalb counties were also featured.
“I really want to applaud Michael Hightower for his work over the last 15 years,” says Ceasar Mitchell, chair, Atlanta City Council. “Much of the energy you see now on the Southside is due in large part to Michael’s vision.”
Along with 2017 Presenting Sponsor Comcast, SMDO presented a host of awards to community and government leaders:
- South Metro Development Outlook Award: City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed, City of Atlanta
- Corporate Partner Award: Georgia Power, Lisa Smith, Metro South Region Manager, Georgia Power
- Community Catalyst Award: Georgia International Convention Center, Mayor Jack Longino, City of College Park
- Regional Community Leadership Award: Atlanta Regional Commission, Kerry Armstrong, Chairman, Atlanta Regional Commission
- Economic Development Award: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Commissioner Dee Clemons, Henry County Board of Commissioners
- Advocacy Award: Empire Board of Realtists, Sharon Henry
- Visionary Award: T. Dallas Smith & Company
Sessions included the 2017 Economic Forecast and South Metro’s New Leadership, which introduced new county leaders June Wood (chair, Henry County Board of Commissioners) and Michael Thurmond, CEO of DeKalb County. Other county leaders participating in the session on South Metro’s New Leadership included Lisa Cupid, vice chairman, Cobb County Board of Commissioners; Eric Maxwell, chairman, Fayette County Board of Commissioners; and Oz Nesbitt, Sr., chairman, Rockdale County Board of Commissioners.
Two other SMDO 2017 topics were Transportation on the Go in South Metro and the South Metro Community Improvement District (CID) Update.
When accepting his award, Mayor Reed encouraged the group to move beyond celebrating the accomplishments of the past 15 years and to “double-down, work harder because this is South Metro’s moment.”