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Opinion: Amazon win wouldn’t hurt city’s efforts on affordability, equity

Atlanta is unique among the cities listed as finalists for Amazon’s HQ2.

For starters, we have the busiest airport in the world, the economic engine of the region that would dovetail nicely with Amazon’s delivery component. But we have many other cards to play.

We are famous for our legacy of progressive diversity. We also have an unrivaled working relationship with our business community when it comes to addressing social issues and collaborating on creative investments that strengthen the cultural fabric of the city.

We have intangibles, as well, such as a cohesive spirit of purposefulness, a tradition of working in deliberative fashion to achieve our dreams.

“Atlanta,” Ambassador Andrew Young has said, “is an intentional miracle.”

There is simply nowhere else in the country where business and government come together like they do in Atlanta. You see it happening every day with the public-private effort to lift up our historic Westside communities, which are the focus of my campaign to raise $1 billion for affordability.

Every successful city has an affordable housing crisis, but it is the sincerity and value of your response that make the difference. In less than six months, nearly $40 million in public investment has been put toward that goal.

The city of Atlanta also has a robust partnership with the state of Georgia, which is consistently ranked as the top state in the country for business. We may be different in many ways, but we know we cannot achieve all we aspire to without working together.

When Atlanta succeeds, Georgia succeeds, and vice versa.

We are a Southern crossroads, both literally and metaphorically. Our railroad nexus has become a center of innovative transportation initiatives. Our diverse cultural offerings continue to make Atlanta the place to be, especially for young people who relocate here from all over the world.

We are a city of surprises. We were the scrappy underdogs who beat out everyone else to host the Centennial Olympic Games. Through that global exposure, we used the Games to leverage the transformation of downtown around Centennial Olympic Park.

Perhaps most of all, we are a city that is unafraid to try. Throughout our history, Atlanta has always taken risks to succeed against the odds. That is how we tackle some of our biggest challenges. We think big and we have never been afraid to fail.

Atlanta was a transit pioneer in the South when MARTA began. Today, we are breaking down barriers and connecting our city, not just with a $2.6 billion expansion of MARTA, but with the Atlanta Beltline, one of the most-highly regarded urban reclamation projects in the world.

At a conference in Italy recently, I spoke with mayors from around the world; every one of them knew about the Atlanta Beltline and admired our ambitious efforts to make it happen.

The connectivity the Beltline provides will bring us closer to achieving One Atlanta. It has been called our beachfront property and the “new Peachtree.” But what it most closely represents is opportunity, a golden chance to address inequity and the need for affordable workforce housing.

The vast majority of Atlanta’s workers do not live here. We need to change that by improving our inventory of affordable housing, so more residents can put down roots here. We need to give people who work in the city more reasons to care about the city. If they call Atlanta home, that will happen.

The Atlanta Beltline is an inspiration to those of us who value affordability and equitable growth. But we cannot let the promise of its original vision be obscured by the prosperity it brings.

Rising rents, escalating property taxes, infrastructure pressures — these issues are top priorities for my Administration, and we will continue to push equity and affordability every single day, through the work of the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, also known as One Atlanta.

Like all the competing cities, we unequivocally want the 50,000 high-paying jobs that HQ2 will bring to Atlanta, and we will celebrate an Amazon decision in our favor. We also remain undaunted by any projected impacts HQ2 might have.

The economic development, human capital and civic momentum that Amazon brings will far outweigh any negatives that might also arise.

No matter which way it goes, Amazon’s decision will not alter this city’s DNA. While HQ2 will inevitably bring changes, Atlanta will respond as we always have — by working together to fulfill our destiny as one of the world’s greatest cities.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is mayor of Atlanta.

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