Type “Atlanta” into the World Economic Forum’s data visualization of 2,500 attendees from 100 countries, and only one dot remains.
That’s Mayor Kasim Reed, who was invited this year to join the international “who’s who” of politicians, C-level executives, philanthropists, academics and policy makers in Davos, Switzerland.
But a closer look reveals that he won’t be the only Atlantan there. Coca-Cola Co. Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent will make an appearance, along with three top executives from United Parcel Service Inc. and its foundation. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of Atlanta-based poverty-reduction organization CARE, is also slated to attend.
However, Mr. Reed is unique in a way that’s arguably more important given his desire to elevate Atlanta into the upper echelon of global cities: He is the only mayor slated to attend from the United States, joining peers from the likes of London, Madrid, Rome, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and other cities to share ideas about how urban leaders impact policy on some of the world’s toughest issues.
Mr. Reed is also the first Atlanta mayor to attend the forum, where he is to participate in discussions on youth unemployment, city models for problem-solving, public-private partnerships, public trust in government and a look at travel and transportation in 2025. See full list of topics
“Without question, the economic future of our nation and world is determined by the success of cities. I believe that mayors and government leaders are in a stronger position than ever before to leverage the positive impacts of urbanization and address the challenges that face us,” the mayor said in a news release.
Even while working closely with the state leaders and playing at high levels in Washington, Mr. Reed has often touted the ability of mayors to get things done in an era of national polarization and paralysis.
“Mayors do more things, and we can do them faster,” Mr. Reed was quoted as saying during an interview with HuffPost Live at Davos. “And we know that there is an end to our service, that gives it a real sense of urgency.”
Over the past year, his thinking has seemed to crystallize around the issue. During the Global Cities Initiative launch in Atlanta last March, he noted that the Georgia capital rubs shoulders with the likes of Shanghai and Mumbai, not just regional competitors.
Representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this month, he pointed to Atlanta’s transportation journey and noted that cities’ experiences are instructive for national policy makers.
“I believe the future of solving much of our nation’s transportation problems lies within the vision and leadership we find in our cities,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “I hope you will agree that providing the resources and decision-making authority increasingly to cities and their regions will yield enormous benefits not only to the nation’s mobility but to the returning health of our nation’s economy.”
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