Phil Bolton for GlobalAtlanta
The Sept. 5-13 trip to China led by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin marked a new spirit of cooperation for leaders of the Atlanta region as they increasingly seek to benefit from the global economy, Samuel S. Olens, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, told GlobalAtlanta.

As commission chair, Mr. Olens oversees the organization’s activities to coordinate planning efforts, to compile data and to forecast future trends on behalf of 10 counties and the city of Atlanta forming the Atlanta region.

“The region must work together to compete globally,” he said during an interview in his office in Marietta where he serves as chairman of the Cobb County Commission.

The local importance of the global economy is not a new revelation for him, he added, pointing to his studies in international affairs at American University in Washington where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of International Service before earning a law degree from Emory University.

As further examples of his awareness of the importance of having an international perspective, he pointed to the enrollment of his two children in the Atlanta International School and his willingness to host international students at this home. At the time of the interview on Oct. 4, a student from Shanghai, China, was living with his family.

Also in his position as Cobb County Commission chair, he said he is well aware of the impact that new communities in Cobb as well as other counties in the region and throughout the state are having.

Through a federal grant, the Atlanta Regional Commission has established the Global Atlanta Works initiative that is identifying the extent of ethnic communities in the region, including the state’s growing Chinese communities.

With some two dozen academic, city and business officials participating in the China trip, Mr. Olens said that it was clear that the region was presenting a united front to a series of Chinese government officials and businesspeople.

But although counties vie among themselves for foreign direct investment and with the rest of the state as well, he said that there was an acute awareness that the state of Georgia also had to be promoted generally.

State income and sales taxes “help everyone,” he said, adding that he hoped the trip would result in new Chinese foreign investments in Georgia.

During the visit, a Liushi, China-based company announced that it would invest in a $30 million manufacturing facility somewhere in metro Atlanta, and other investments also are expected.

Mr. Olens said, however, he did not think that Chinese investment in the state would become significant until the Chinese government opened a consular office in the city and that Delta Air Lines Inc. had direct flights to Beijing.

Mr. Olens may be reached at the Atlanta Regional Commission by calling (404) 463-3100 or by sending an email to

For related articles, go to: