A….T…..L. A….T…..L. If you’ve been to an Atlanta United game recently, you know exactly how this chant goes and how fired up the crowd gets. Attend a Five Stripes game in the new (and amazing) Mercedes-Benz Stadium and you’ll see and hear more than 70,000 fans of all walks of life come together with a single voice.
The noise is deafening. The passion is unmistakable. And the pride is incredible.
That’s why I’m convinced that we ought to adopt this energetic – and downright infectious – rallying cry for our entire city. Sure, we can still be known as “The City Too Busy to Hate,” “Hotlanta” and “The City in a Forest” (all of which are still true), but lately Atlantans are (re)invigorated with a love for our city that we haven’t seen since Juan Antonio Samaranch announced that “The City of… (longest pause in the history of the world) Atlanta” would host the 1996 Olympic games.
But why is there so much energy? Why is there so much optimism? Why are we so excited?
It’s not just because of our soccer team.
Between our population and our culture, we’re increasingly international. Residents from all neighborhoods of metro Atlanta are coming together in ways that previous generations didn’t (or wouldn’t). And it certainly helps that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, serves more than 100 million passengers per year from 207 domestic and international gates.
Plus we’re leading the way in business, technology and quality of life for professionals and companies of all ages, from start-ups to stalwarts, including 15 Fortune 500 companies (And Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS and Delta Air Lines are all in the Fortune 100).
We’re also quickly becoming known as a powerful center for healthcare and biosciences. Add to that our leading role in logistics and supply chain management, communications, our continued emergence in the expanding FinTech market, our 1.4 million square foot event and meeting space known as the Georgia World Congress Center, our collection of national nonprofits and the growing educational opportunities created by our colleges and universities (including the exploding technical college system), and success seems less like a vision and more and more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And because of our economic ecosystem we’re attracting new businesses at a record rate, including the increasing number of out-of-town and homegrown film and production companies that see Atlanta as the “Hollywood of the South.”
It doesn’t hurt that our weather is basically great all year round (minus the ever-present humidity and Snowpocalypse, the ice storm of the century). And our escapes – mountains, rivers and beaches – are all within a half day’s drive of the city.
Of course, we’re not perfect – no city is – as traffic plagues our city to no end. Especially when it rains. “I swear when it rains the water seeps through the sunroof and into people’s brains,” my barber says. “Bless their hearts,” I say in response. After all, it’s the appropriate Southern response and a phrase you’ll hear almost as much as “y’all” – a contraction which can be singular or plural, as confusing as that might seem.
Culturally, racial equity has always been a critical issue for our city. I think all would agree that our history and our leaders – Martin Luther King, Jr., former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, and Congressman John Lewis, to name a few – have helped our city make significant progress forward since the 1960s. The Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta has certainly assisted in that regard, as it continues to inspire Atlantans and visitors alike to understand our past and move forward to promote and encourage ongoing dialogue and action surrounding the rights of all human beings.
As a native Atlantan (and trust me, there aren’t that many of us anymore), I can say that our city has grown, matured and is thriving across all spectrums – from business to lifestyle to culture. And we have done so without forgetting our past. Pick any tagline or nickname of the last 150 years – including our motto, Resurgens (Latin for “rising again”), which was adopted way back in 1887 – and they all hold true.
Atlanta continues to rise again…and again, and again. To whatever the challenge might be. And we do so United.