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Recipe for Revitalizing Atlanta’s Economy: Transportation Initiatives and Tax Incentives, say Speakers at Jones Lang LaSalle’s Real Estate Forecast Event in Atlanta

ATLANTA, Feb. 6, 2012 – The outcome of a pair of transportation proposals and the quality of tax incentives offered to businesses will be crucial in determining whether Atlanta returns to economic prosperity, said speakers at Jones Lang LaSalle’s Atlanta Real Estate Forecast 2012 event held Thursday at The St. Regis Atlanta Hotel.

“The next few months are going to be critical to the economy of Georgia,” said Chris Cummiskey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, who was the keynote speaker. “The transportation issue is all about jobs.”

Amy Gerber, Executive Vice President of Business and Economic Incentives for Jones Lang LaSalle in Atlanta, moderated a panel that included representatives from state and local agencies: Douglas Callaway, Executive Director, Georgia Transportation Alliance; William “Bill” Cronin, Vice President, Invest Atlanta; and Elmer Stancil, Director of Government Relations and Policy for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The key question the panellists addressed was: how can Atlanta return to the days when it was a magnet for real estate development and jobs?

The Importance of Transport
Speakers pointed out that residents will play a key role in Atlanta’s economic fortunes when they cast their votes this July in a transportation referendum (T-SPLOST), which would fund transportation projects that proponents consider crucial to improving the economy and quality of life in Atlanta and across the state. The projects would be funded by a 10-year, 1-percent sales tax.

“If we want to have the growth we had in the 70s and 80s, it has to pass,” Cummiskey said. “It’s going to help us close more deals and garner more jobs for the state of Georgia.”

Bill Cronin from Invest Atlanta said a failure to pass T-SPLOST would take a toll on Atlanta’s image. “If it doesn’t pass, the rest of the world won’t forget that we don’t have our act together,” he said.

“We have a tool in Georgia to help make us more successful against our competitors,” said Douglas Callaway of the Georgia Transportation Alliance. “Yes, it’s a tax, but there are all sorts of benefits that flow from this. We’re trying to help the Georgia voter be fully informed of the benefits.”

According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, T-SPLOST programs would pump $34.8 billion into the metro Atlanta economy and add 7,120 jobs (including construction jobs) per year from 2013 to 2040.

The Port of Savannah
Another key transportation initiative, speakers stressed, is the proposal to deepen the Port of Savannah from 42 feet to 48 feet to accommodate the larger container ships that will transport cargo through East Coast ports following the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014. The proposed project requires approvals from multiple federal agencies. Atlanta stands to benefit from increased cargo volumes since much of the cargo that passes through the Port of Savannah is distributed through Atlanta’s large distribution facilities.

“Tennessee is a major competitor, but it doesn’t have a port like Savannah,” said Cummiskey. “We have so many other resources that other states can’t match.” He noted that the region faces more competition than ever from Southeast states such as Alabama and South Carolina that are using aggressive incentives to win business.

He said the state must leverage advantages such as funding from its Quick Start job training program and its strong university system to ensure that it doesn’t lose jobs to its Southeast neighbours. “We have been losing too much to South Carolina. They have eaten our lunch at times, and we’re sick of it,” Cummiskey said. “If we clear these [transportation] hurdles, I can guarantee that South Carolina is not going to beat us again.”

Elmer Stancil of the Georgia Department of Economic Development said several proposed state competitiveness incentives would also boost economic development efforts in Atlanta and surrounding regions. A bill introduced in the state Legislature this week would reduce the threshold for quality job credits (from the current 50 new jobs to 15 jobs created) and boost tax credits for job creation from $1,225 per job to $2,500 per job.  

The city’s economic development arm Invest Atlanta, which was recently renamed from the Atlanta Development Authority, is placing a greater emphasis on attracting foreign investment. “It wasn’t just a name change. It’s to make Atlanta the most dynamic and competitive city in the world,” said Cronin.

As part its goal of attracting and retaining business, the city is offering an economic opportunity fund. “It’s a true grant that can be used for working capital,” Cronin said. “This is probably one of Atlanta’s best-kept secrets.”

At the close of the event, Jones Lang LaSalle Atlanta Market Director Mike Sivewright announced the launch of a mobile device version of the Atlanta Urban Skyline Review. The review, which provides a graphic-rich snapshot of office trends down to the level of individual buildings, is available by texting JLLSKYLINE to 99699 or visiting  

Jones Lang LaSalle has more than 700 employees in Atlanta and across Georgia providing real estate expertise in tenant and landlord representation, property management, project and development services, and investment sales. Jones Lang LaSalle’s leasing and management portfolio includes some of Atlanta’s most iconic buildings. In 2010, the firm was named one of the Best Places to Work in Atlanta by The Atlanta Business Chronicle.

About Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. With 2011 global revenue of more than $3.6 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 70 countries from more than 1,000 locations worldwide, including 200 corporate offices.  The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 2.1 billion square feet worldwide. LaSalle Investment Management, the company’s investment management business, is one of the world’s largest and most diverse in real estate with $47.7 billion of assets under management. For further information, please visit our website,