Georgia Tech Hosts Symposium on Future of Southeast

Mayors Call for Regional Emergency Preparedness

Karen Leone de Nie
Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development
Contact Karen Leone de Nie
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Summary Sentence:

Beginning a Southeastern Dialogue on Regionalism

Full Summary:

On January 29-30, 2006, representatives from private, public, academic, and non-profit organizations across six southern states gathered at Georgia Tech in Atlanta for a groundbreaking symposium on the future of the emerging southeastern MegaRegion.

Elected officials and representatives from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee convened on January 29 and 30, 2006, for the Think Global, Act Regional Symposium in Atlanta. The attendees included federal and state legislators, mayors, public- and private-sector representatives, academics, and other community leaders. Together, they composed a diverse and enthusiastic audience. The fact that so many people attended the symposium, and that they represented so many sectors of our communities, was a testament to the timeliness of this discussion.

The event, organized by Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development and the City and Regional Planning program, provided a venue to learn about a new wave of multi-state regionalism, called MegaRegions, and to begin a dialogue focusing on opportunities for public- and private-sector groups in the southeastern states to work together. As part of the Symposium, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) hosted the ULI/Joseph C. Canizaro Mayors' Forum. Like Mayors' Forums held in other parts of the country, this event provided an arena for mayors and other elected officials to discuss and learn about practical responses to development challenges in their communities.

The event began with a reception and keynote presentation by Armando Carbonell, senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Carbonell framed the MegaRegion concept as a proactive response to the future challenges that will face not only one city or even one state, but instead a collective region. These regions, as Carbonell explained, are related by economic, social and environmental connections. The connections among southeastern cities are most obvious in shared transportation problems, challenges regarding water resources, and forecasts of a population boom over the next 45 years.

The second day began with a presentation by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson emphasizing the importance of multi-state efforts to ensure the future prosperity of the southeast. "The lynch pin to MegaRegionalism is a single topicÂ…[like] transportation, green space, air quality," said Isakson. He went on to discuss the Southeast High Speed Rail, a proposal to link several major southeastern cities to Washington, D.C. and the northeast. Isakson also talked about a $25 billion federal bill he has authored for open space conservation. He envisioned a regional green space initiative that unites public- and private-sector interests in protecting the environment and shaping our communities.

The southeast, called the Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion for its geographic location, is one of eight to ten regions in the United States identified by researchers. To better understand this concept, attendees of the event heard from representatives of MegaRegions efforts from around the country. Mark A. Pisano, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, talked aboutthe Southern California MegaRegion as a global logistics hub; Thomas K. Wright, executive vice president of the Regional Plan Association (New York), gave a presentation on the Northeast MegaRegion; and Carolyn A. Dekle, executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, outlined issues facing southern Florida.

Catherine L. Ross, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, summarized the research on the six-state Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion (PAM). She identified three critical issues facing PAM-projected population growth combined with an associated demand for resources and services, growing social and economic disparities, and the need for an increasingly global perspective to ensure future prosperity and a high quality of life for PAM residents. Ross pointed to the opportunities of regional cooperation to better plan for a future that is very different than the world we live in today, one where global realities impact individual cities in very real ways.

Following the briefing on MegaRegions research, participants took part in working sessions to discuss the opportunities and challenges of multi-state regionalism from the perspective of cities, counties, metropolitan regions, and states.

For example, William H. Hudnutt, III, a senior resident fellow of ULI, led officials from 12 cities and counties in a discussion of the shift from local to regional thinking and potential priorities for the southeast. After much discussion, a resolution emerged to begin new regional discussions on an issue of mutual importance. That resolution, which was announced by Mayor Jere Wood, City of Roswell, GA, called for regional coordination and communication to address security, disaster, and health. As he and other mayors noted, emergency preparedness is a complicated issue that not only requires fast and effective responses at the site of the disaster, but also a broader network of infrastructure, services, and communication.

The event ended with a rallying speech by Mayor Shirley Franklin, City of Atlanta, GA. She applauded the more than 100 people who attended the Symposium for their spirit of collaboration and forward thinking and called for continued leadership on the subject of MegaRegions. In the spirit of looking to the future, Mayor Franklin announced the development of a 100-year plan for the City of Atlanta.

The Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development has posted presentations from the Think Global, Act Regional Symposium online; the site also includes additional information on the MegaRegions initiative and specifically about the Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion. For more information visit

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  • Created By: Joanie Chembars
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Mar 15, 2006 - 8:00pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:10pm