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Phila. leaders learning from Atlanta

September 25, 2008

Athena D. Merritt, Phildalephia Business Journal


More than 100 government, business, nonprofit and civic leaders from Philadelphia began soaking in Atlanta's ways on Wednesday, hoping to take a page home on making their own region better.


Spearheaded by the Economy League of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange features two half-days of panel discussions with Atlanta's leaders. The exchange is the second hosted by the Economy League, which first led more than 70 leaders to Chicago in 2005. This time around, like the first, participants learned of a city that has much to be proud of, but also one that faces many challenges.


Participants were told of a city that landed the Olympics and leveraged its airport to put itself on the map worldwide, a city where people arrive for college and stay after graduation, and where leaders can put differences aside for the greater cause and the private sector can unite to shape a better future.


They were also told of a city that has the worst traffic congestion in the nation, a diminishing water supply, strained relationship with its state leaders, racial divides and questions about who will lead it next.


The epitome of the Atlanta way is the belief that anything is possible, said panelist A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District in pointing to the city's achievements.

"We see ourselves as the place to come for opportunity," Robinson said.


Jack Smith, chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, challenged participants to take what they learn home and pass it along to others.


"Government only succeeds with involvement, if you are not willing to be involved you can't expect it to be better than it is," Smith said.