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June 05, 2015

Atlanta MEP: Think Global. Start Local.

by Trevor Williams | June 3, 2015
Clipping from Global Atlanta


A newly launched plan to boost metro Atlanta’s export output will reach outside the city limits and prioritize engagement with minority-owned businesses, leaders said at the unveiling of the Atlanta Metro Export Plan Wednesday.   

JPMorgan Chase & Co. committed $300,000 to the initiative, an effort among city and regional leaders that includes the launch of the Atlanta Export Portal, which local resources to help small and medium-sized companies expand overseas sales.  
The tools were always there, just not consolidated or promoted well, said David Balos, market leader for Georgia and Alabama for the bank, which has backed the plan over the last two years through the Brookings Institution's Global Cities Initiative.  

“There were a lot of cats that needed to be herded,” Mr. Balos said. "This portal, all it's doing is pulling this information together and making it a little more accessible and a one-stop shop." 

Leaders said exports are key to metro Atlanta’s competitiveness but that the area hasn’t realized its full potential. 
Mayor Kasim Reed said metro area has 150,000 jobs supported by trade, but further growth is hindered by American companies’ fear of the unknown.  

With a globalized economy, a sluggish U.S. recovery and 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., that’s no longer a tenable position, the mayor said.  
“We’re going to have to get rid of the fear that comes with selling your good internationally, and that’s what this initiative is all about,” Mr. Reed said.  

He added that a major objective of the plan is “building bridges” between small Atlanta companies and corporate giants like Delta Air Lines Inc.Coca-Cola Co. and United Parcel Service Inc., which have successfully cracked new markets all over the world, building the Atlanta brand in the process.  

“Anywhere you travel in the world, Coca-Cola has a home office,” the mayor said.    
While Atlanta ranks No. 14 overall in metro exports, it’s No. 75 in what Brookings calls export intensity, which measures the proportion of overall economic output attributable to exports.  

Metro Atlanta Chamber President Hala Moddelmog said that’s partly because the city is so heavy in services like franchising, and that’s not always such a bad thing: They might not bring as much revenue as manufactured goods like cars, but profit margins on say, royalties from overseas restaurants, are often massive, she told Global Atlanta. Atlanta’s export makeup is almost evenly distributed between goods (like auto parts and poultry) and services (like logistics, air travel and education).  Still, there's room for improvement, she said.  
“If I know the mayor and the other people in this room, I know 75 doesn’t work for us,” Ms. Moddelmog said.  

The new Atlanta MEP will include a roadshow to build export awareness throughout the 29 counties of the metro area. About two-thirds of the JPMorgan money will go toward a yet-to-be-outlined "Export Challenge” that will provide export grants to small businesses. 

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