TSPLOST and The Creative Class

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If you’ve been reading this blog of late, you’ve probably gotten tired of the pro-TSPLOST rants.  If you have not committed to spending a few minutes in the voting booth tomorrow, I hope that you’ll take a few moments to reconsider your decision.  One more pro-TSPLOST letter, below.  Reader and friend-‘o-the-blog Charles Pinkham on the importance of the “”yes”” vote, and the impact that transportation funding will have on Atlanta’s ability to attract the “”creative class“” (and the businesses that covet them)…

Atlanta should vote yes for the traffic referendum tomorrow July 31st.  It is not fiscally conservative, but this is not a political issue. It is large, bold, and exactly what Atlanta needs. This is not just about projects to help our traffic – it is directly related to the economic viability of our city as a whole.  This says to the rest of the country that, in the words of President of Central Atlanta Progress A.J. Robinson, we will “”think globally and act locally.””  This is a statement that we will do our best to find creative solutions to the city’s pitfalls that plague our economic growth and that we will help ourselves.  It is a precedented move that has proven incredibly effective in cities like Denver, Charlotte, Salt Lake City and Portland, and it is necessary in order for Atlanta to maintain its status as a global city with vibrance and infrastructure for future growth.  I understand concerns about possible negative financial implications, but above and beyond the direct traffic initiatives this will address, TSPLOST contains many intangibles and multipliers we can’t see on paper today.

Let’s look at a specific project as an example:  the BeltLine. Atlanta has pockets of dense, walkable space, like the Virginia Highlands, Peidmont Park, Inman Park, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, etc. There are major universities, thriving residential and business areas that act independently and are separated by streetlights and roads. There are other pockets that can support new development in the gentrifying areas of Edgewood, Auburn Ave, the Moreland and Memorial corridors, Old Fourth Ward, Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown, Grant Park, Glenwood, etc, and this is all in just one section of the Beltline.  The Beltline will provide connectivity like Atlanta has never before experienced, transforming pockets into communities, furthering the gentrification, supporting the reverse urban sprawl that Atlanta is experiencing and must continue to attract the best talent in terms of business and workforce.

The holy grail for growth in most cities around the country is the young creatives, the Creative Class; they’re educated, relatively affluent, consume less in the way of government services than children or the elderly, and make up a surprising 30% of the US workforce. They lead trends and spark growth. They want to live in town, be connected via walkable pedestrian paths, streetcars, bike paths. They want to be able to walk from Inman Park to Piedmont Park without crossing a street like the Beltline provides. The economic impact of these trend leaders is huge and extends well beyond the walls of their homes and places of business into restaurants, bars, clubs and music venues, leading to more growth, more influx of talent, and more influx of business.

For companies in the modern environment, access to a talented and creative pool is critical. Companies say to cities trying to lure them with old methods that simple financial incentives will no longer work.  As stated by Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, “Keep your tax incentives; we will go where the highly skilled people are.” There is a serious multiplier effect here! (Fyi, for a good read, pick up the revisited version of Richard Florida’s “Rise of the Creative Class.””)

Atlanta, TSPLOST isn’t perfect and won’t please everyone. But how could it? It’s a bi-partisan product of negotiation and compromise between competing interests. But if not this, then what, and when? There is no plan B or negotiation available today. If this is voted down, the only possible solution is another government initiative that will again be years and years in the making. It’s an opportunity that this city must take NOW and vote YES tomorrow, July 31st.

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alexandra