France-Atlanta 2016 got off to an unexpectedly hip-hop start the evening of Oct. 4 as the Atlanta Falcons Drumline warmed up on a particularly balmy evening for a separate event at the College Football Hall of Fame across Marietta Street from the Metro Atlanta Chamber where the launch event was held.
Mayor Kasim Reed, a Francophile thanks to his wife Sarah-Elizabeth who was a French major in college, went so far as to suggest that he might be motivated to rap his comments welcoming the 7th iteration of the Oct. 12-21 event.
One hundred twenty guests representing a cross section of local academic, business and cultural communities absorbed quantities of crab cakes, steak tartar, and salmon mousse as they listened to the presentations of the official speakers amplified by sound waves of drumming and enjoyed an array of wines and champagne.
“We wanted to make certain that France-Atlanta got off to a really positive start this year,” Heather Kircher, press and communications attache at the consulate general, told Global Atlanta. As if to guarantee that everyone went home satisfied, the guests were offered crepes and macaroons before they left.
Ms. Kircher added that she felt the enthusiasm for France-Atlanta continues to grow as the opportunities for collaboration expand. She also said that she was particularly grateful to the Metro Atlanta Chamber for hosting the event on its second-story terrace, which offers a panoramic view of the city of Atlanta‘s skyline.
Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the chamber, acknowledged the importance of the relations formed through France-Atlanta programs, and admitted that Paris was one of her favorite cities.
Launched in 2010 by then-French consul general in Atlanta Pascal Le Deunff to strengthen the “structural relationships” between France and Atlanta, the program has continued to underscore the importance of French-U.S. partnerships between institutions dealing with today’s security, economic development, health and political challenges.
Mr. Reed praised the program in general terms saying, “We are together because we want to be,” adding that the participants “learn from one another” and essentially enjoy working on projects together.
As a specific example, he cited his recent meeting with representatives from the Greater Paris Investment Agency and Hubstart Paris to discuss the economic clusters and incentives for doing business in the region surrounding the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport.
New French Consul General Louis de Corail opened the celebration, which will be one of the last events held on the terrace as the countdown begins to abandon the downtown facility before it is torn down to make way for an expanded Centennial Park.
Mr. de Corail reviewed the highlights of the program to be focused on cybersecurity, mental health during humanitarian crises and the role of arts in democracy building.
Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, filled in for G. P. “Bud” Peterson, the university’s president and an annual fixture at the opening event. Dr. Bras explained that Dr. Peterson remained supportive of the program but could not attend this year since he was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for a meeting at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals where he has been a member of the university’s advisory board since 2012.
Dr. Bras underscored the close ties to France through the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus outside of Metz, France, which, he said, 4,000 undergraduates and 1,500 graduate students have attended since it was established in 1990.
“Why do it?” Dr. Bras asked rhetorically, citing the international prestige from which the university benefits because of the overseas campus. “Because we have to have the ability to attract the best faculty and students.”
He also praised the Lorraine campus for providing a meaningful study abroad experience for the university’s students, 54 percent of whom will have some sort of overseas experience before they graduate. Six of the students previously enrolled at the Lorraine campus attended the reception.
In addition to providing students with a global outlook, he told Global Atlanta that the campus also provided an important means of establishing ties with major global companies.
Companies such as the giant chemical conglomerate Solvay SA, for instance, he said, were supportive of the research being conducted on the campus with prospects of being commercialized by the one-year-old Lafayette Institute, located on the campus.
Omar Jeroudi, joint venture performance director in the Atlanta office of Air France, also described the relations between Delta Air Lines Inc., Air France and KLM, all members of the global SkyTeam alliance, providing four flights a day to Paris.
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