If any year posed the temptation to chase web traffic by reporting in more detail on politics, 2020 was it.  

But even throughout a contentious election year, rocked by racial-justice protests and a raging pandemic, Global Atlanta resisted the temptation to be consumed by the domestic stories that dominated the news cycle.  

Of course, it wasn’t too challenging to stay on task. This year was unlike any other in that global and local stories were more explicitly intertwined. And while politics would require us branching out, our strength lies in revealing the connections between Atlanta and the global economy, a task that required all our attention when it ground to halt in March.  

In a way, our top 20 stories of the year reflect the pandemic’s steady progression around the world. It first seemed comfortably confined across the Pacific in China, where the virus causing COVID-19 originated in late December and began to make headlines in late January.  


See the full top 20 list — story continues below

  1. Laying Off Foreign Workers During the Pandemic? Here’s How to Help Them While Complying With Immigration Laws – April 2

  2. A Tourism ‘Island,’ Israel Strategizes for Eventual Reopening to Foreigners – June 11

  3. Augusta Factory Ramps Up to Relieve Global Mask Shortage as China Fights Coronavirus – February 19

  4. Griffin Nets Fifth Japanese Manufacturer in Six Years – January 8

  5. Mexico City’s Open for Atlanta Tourists, but Are They Bold Enough to Travel? – August 5

  6. How to Access Consular Services Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak – March 17

  7. How the U.S. Should Leverage Cities Like Atlanta in COVID-19 Vaccine Negotiations – August 25

  8. Gulfstream Continues to Grow London Presence With New Service Center – July 28

  9. Exide to Sell Off Growing International Battery Business Amid Restructuring – May 26

  10. Quebec-Owned Mask Maker Triples Factory Space in Augusta Area – October 9

  11. Japanese Auto Supplier to Make Sixth Expansion in Rome – October 26

  12. Kia Extends Factory Closure for Two Weeks – April 15

  13. Commentary: Trump’s Latest Immigration Proclamation Carries Damaging Consequences for Foreign Workers, Residents – July 7

  14. SK to Build Second Georgia Battery Plant, Increase Investment to $2.5B – April 30

  15. Canadian Lumber Giant Interfor’s ‘Surreal’ Quarter Ends With Georgia Mills Back on Track – August 11

  16. SK Battery Installs Immigration Checks Amid Criticism of Hiring Practices at Korean-Owned Plant – August 28

  17. Architect Jack Portman Dies at 71, Ending Lifelong Learning Quest That Helped Connect Atlanta to Asia – September 3

  18. Korean Factory to Create 600 New Jobs as Foreign Firms Sustain Georgia’s 2020 Investment Momentum

  19. Kabbage Co-founder Advocates Three-Week Global Quarantine to Mitigate Small Business Harm From Coronavirus – March 10

  20. Belgian Pharma Giant UCB Planning $47.5M Expansion, 100 New Jobs in Smyrna – May 15

Honorable Mention: 


As early as February we had written about how a Georgia plant was ramping up mask production to meet lost capacity out of China, which had stemmed the outward flow of PPE to meet its internal needs amid its rapidly spreading outbreak (see No. 3 on the below list). In March, local fintech unicorn Kabbage was advocating for a three-week global lockdown to save local businesses (it would go on to help facilitate PPP loans to many of them, then get acquired by American Express.)  

The next victim was Europe, especially Italy and Spain, which felt the brunt of the first surges outside of China. When the epidemic was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in early March, Americans remained blissfully ignorant about how quickly it was spreading within our borders. Few thought we would soon become the global epicenter.  

As it became clear the U.S. would not escape unscathed, the focus shifted from prevention to containing community spread, leading to the closure of borders and shutdown of air routes along with government-imposed lockdowns, including here in Georgia. (Our story on Delta’s COVID-tested flights to Italy and the Netherlands, while published only this month, nearly cracked the top-20.)  

On March 17, we put together a guide to accessing consular services in Atlanta, hoping to be of help to our foreign expatriate readers as well as Americans who would might need timely knowledge on ever-changing hours and contact information for the 70-plus international offices in the state. It wasn’t easy, but the fact that this repository landed at No. 6 on our list shows that it was a worthwhile endeavor.  

In a similar spirit of collaborative effort, in April we put together a list of 40-plus international organizations around the city — international affairs and business groups, binational chambers and language/cultural institutes — that would need financial support as their event revenue plummeted. That list just missed the top 20, but was close enough to merit honorable mention. 

Other entries on the top-20 list reveal how hungry the business community was for relevant information on issues like travel — from Israel’s plans for reopening to foreign tourists and Mexico City’s bold stance of staying open to Americans throughout the worst of the outbreak. Commentaries on immigration, unsurprisingly in a year where President Trump threw the future of many into uncertainty, took more than their fair share of slots.  

Other stories on factory closures due to COVID-19 as well as corporate bankruptcies (No. 9), expansions to meet growing health care needs (Nos. 3, 10) and recoveries after the initial shock (No. 15), joined the standard economic-development expansions (especially by Korean companies like SK Battery) on the list.  

Two rare obituaries also stood out, as the community sought out our reporting on the (non-COVID-related) deaths of Atlanta architect and developer Jack Portman and George Novak, former honorary consul of the Czech Republic 

Too many stories remained untold, as the pandemic kept us largely desk-bound and writing mostly about events that had become webinars rather than delving into bigger issues like the global (and local) implications of the Black Lives Matter protests that we touched only tangentially. 

Trade policy, too, had a volatile year, and we continued to write heavily about the adaptations Georgia manufacturers were making to survive, thrive and help their workers and communities, as well as about how foreign investors from Japan to Europe were struggling to access much-needed government assistance.   

But regrets about what we didn’t write are inevitable in any year, and as always, we will use them as fuel to get out there more in 2021.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...