I haven’t written a “what-I-want-for-Christmas” letter to Santa Claus in years. OK, make that decades. How time flies! But an unusual pre-Christmas snowfall in Atlanta has done the seemingly impossible for the notoriously bad traffic in America’s ninth largest metro – clear the roads of cars, trucks and almost everything else that moves on tires – and given me the time and inspiration to sit down on a wintry Saturday morning and tell the Big Guy what I want for Christmas. Here goes.
Topping my list is HQ2. Admittedly I’m prejudiced about the city and region where I’ve lived for so long (45 years!) that I consider it home, but what a great choice Atlanta would make for the future $5 billion second headquarters of Amazon. National weekly business magazine Inc. apparently agrees. The magazine recently created a list of the top six contenders for the new Amazon site. The list is based on a polling of betting sites, shipping experts, investors and people familiar with Amazon. Atlanta is No. 1 on that list. The others are Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. Santa, are you listening? Please put Jeff Bezos in your sleigh and bring him to Atlanta. The city is ready to transform The Gulch (or one of several other locations) into a perfect workplace for those 50,000 new jobs he is promising to create.
While we're on the topic of economic development, how about including a little something extra in the stockings of the nice folks at the New York Stock Exchange who invited more than 30 executives from leading Atlanta companies to the Big Apple to celebrate our region’s success in business, talent attraction and innovation. These business leaders, who are from Fortune 500 and high-growth companies and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, gathered at the New York Stock Exchange on Dec. 4 for the opening bell. In doing so, metro Atlanta became the first U.S. region to participate in an event of this kind. The event, which not coincidentally occurred during the busiest shopping season of the year, provided a platform for MAC to declare Atlanta as the ‘center of holiday shopping and entertaining’ in the country.
Santa, you can see that I’m on a roll here, so I may as well go ahead and ask for something that might take all of your Santa powers. Could you please work with the Georgia General Assembly when the state's lawmakers convene in January and convince them to write and pass legislation to expand mass transit in metro Atlanta? We are a region of 29 counties and five million-plus people. I know that as you fly over Atlanta you can see just how big our region is. But, for the record, metro Atlanta comprises approximately 20 percent of the 159 counties in Georgia. To put that in perspective, Georgia is the largest state geographically east of the Mississippi. Yet MARTA, Atlanta's signature mass transit agency, serves only two counties. Santa, this request is a really big deal. Mass transit is a main requirement of a certain company headquartered in Seattle that is looking for the perfect home for a second headquarters. There are something like 237 other cities that would also like HQ2 for a Christmas present. Expanding our commitment to mass transit could help ensure we are indeed Amazon's No. 1 choice!
Here’s an easy one. Please send the url for the FinTech Atlanta Task Force to all of the people on your media list (whether they’ve been naughty or nice). FinTech Atlanta is a coalition of companies (from Fortune 500s to startups) and other organizations working to cement Atlanta as the recognized global capital of financial technology. Metro Atlanta’s FinTech companies, plus some others elsewhere in the state, process 70 percent of all the credit, debit and gift card transactions in the United States. They also do a lot more than this. But you get the idea. This is another reallly big deal. The problem is, the national and global media – heck, even some of the local media – haven’t realized this. Various groups, including a FinTech Promote Work Group I’m involved with, are working hard to change this. I’m thinking, though, that a plug from you might give our efforts a significant boost.
Well, enough of the serious stuff. Every Christmas wish list should include something fun. Here’s mine for this year. How about bringing a techie entrepreneur to Atlanta who could develop an accurate weather app. It’s worth pointing out that all of the local forecasters predicted that this pre-Christmas snow would only result in a light dusting of perhaps an inch. Instead, we got perhaps 4-5 inches of the white stuff, which has inspired me to write you for the first time since I was a kid growing up in Newport News, Va. (Thanks, by the way, for the really cool Lionel train set when I was 8. That was one of the best Christmases ever – even if I did initially say some bad things about you when I didn’t see it right away because my father hid it behind a couch!) Perhaps one of your smart and clever elves might be a fit for an app developer. If so, you could put him or her in your sleigh beside Jeff Bezos (I just can’t seem to let that go!) and drop him/her off at one of Atlanta’s really cool high tech incubators such as Atlanta Tech Village or Ponce City Market.
And, finally, while I’m embarrassed to ask, could you bring something just for me? I keep wading into Georgia rivers and streams, fly rod in hand offering rainbow and brown trout the chance to escape the frigid waters of North Georgia for the warmth of a hot skillet where they could soak in sizzling butter with a little white wine and herbs from my kitchen garden. I’m having miserable luck. Do you think you could change that?
I know these are all bold asks. But, hey, I’m feeling emboldened. We’ve already received the gift of a perfect Atlanta snow this holiday season. In case you don’t know the Atlanta definition of a perfect snow, it’s one that is gorgeous while it lasts … which should never be too long! A look out the window reveals this one is already melting nicely on the roads.
Safe travels on Christmas eve. As usual, cookies, hot chocolate and a touch of scotch will be waiting by the fireplace.