Kasim Reed has been a busy man since becoming Atlanta mayor in 2010. During that first year, he got Atlanta’s messy pension system under control, worked on buttressing the city’s police force and reopening shuttered recreation centers.
He made it a point to build the city’s international reputation and connections, traveling to Europe twice and hosting multiple international conferences and trade delegations. He also spent a lot of time in Atlanta and Washington stumping for the Savannah harbor deepening.
In 2011, he upped his rhetoric on the city’s air-cargo goals, saying that he wants to create a “logistics hub for the Western Hemisphere.” Throughout the year, he continued to welcome events like a Saudi Arabia business conference that drew 1,200 attendees in December. And, of course, he had the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal to deal with.
He has begun 2012 with a laser focus on passing a transportation sales tax that he says will reduce gridlock and boost the city’s competitiveness by funding new infrastructure.
With all this activity, the mayor can be forgiven for letting a few items slip to the back burner.
One of those, however, doesn’t square with his professed agenda of building Atlanta’s reputation as a global business hub.
Though he vowed to do so early in the year, 2011 passed without the mayor launching a new international department that would formalize the city’s approach to managing global relationships, including its 18 sister-city ties.
GlobalAtlanta caught up with him at the end of March 2011, at which time he said the funding for three positions in the department would be delayed until after the city’s June 30 budget was passed. He said the city was already looking at potential candidates and promised a “huge announcement” soon.
That announcement hasn’t come, even now that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is just a few months away from the opening of the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal.
To be fair, lacking a city department hasn’t kept Mr. Reed from touting the importance of global business.
Speaking at a Kiwanis Club meeting on Jan. 3, he said that increased international traffic – both in passengers and cargo – would more than compensate for a dip in airport employment projected when Southwest Airlines Co. takes over for AirTran Airways, which it bought last year. (Analysts are predicting that Southwest will operate fewer flights than AirTran did at Hartsfield, meaning that it will need fewer workers.)
He added that development around the airport and foreign executives’ desire to travel back to their home countries conveniently will boost the city’s global standing and keep it an arm’s length ahead of competitors like Charlotte.
In October, Atlanta will host The International Air Cargo Association‘s biennial conference, which brings together air-cargo professionals from all over the world. Mr. Reed attended the forum in Amsterdam during November 2010 to welcome it to Atlanta.