Atlanta has more assets than any American metropolis

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Atlanta emerges from Covid-19 with impeccable credit, the world’s busiest airport and an economy generating two-thirds of Georgia’s gross domestic product. It is home to 13 S&P 500 index companies, including Delta Airlines Inc. and Home Depot Inc., whose sales and market valuations make them the world’s No. 1 in their respective sectors. At 2.4%, Atlanta’s unemployment rate is at an all-time high and below the national average of 3.6%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Wakanda” and “Silicon Peach” are the new nicknames for the city, because so much of the hit Black Panther film was made where so many “techstars” rise. Diversity highlights all businesses in the second-largest majority-black metropolitan area with one of the highest LGBTQ populations per capita in the United States. Unlike its economic peers, Atlanta has been led by a black Democrat since 1974 and is the main reason the state in 2020 backed the first Democrat in nearly 30 years for president.

When Maynard Jackson became the first black mayor of a major Southern city in 1974, garnering 60% of the vote, his two greatest initiatives would stand the test of time: making Atlanta’s black citizens essential players in the economy, which required massive changes. in corporate culture and public works, including upgrading what was then William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and expanding the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority rail system ( MARTA). Jackson was so effective in transforming Atlanta into a global transportation hub that as the city’s longest-serving mayor after William B. Hartsfield, his legacy is the renowned Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Andre Dickens, the 47-year-old former city council member who was elected Atlanta’s 61st mayor by winning 64% of the vote in November, inherits all the problems of big-city mayors, especially the shortage of affordable housing and the rise in homicides. He is familiar with Jackson’s program and is determined to see increased bank lending to marginalized borrowers and to persuade businesses to ensure that at least 30% of their workforce is made up of local residents.

When Microsoft Corp. recently opened new offices in Midtown for 2,500 employees and purchased land for another 10,000, Dickens said he told the software company’s president, Brad Smith, that “if you import all that talent from Redmond (Washington) or San Francisco or the coast because they can live on $150,000 and you drop them in Atlanta, where you have people making less than $15 an hour, you’re going to disrupt our ecosystem.

Housing is his biggest challenge. “We’ve raised $65 million in this year’s budget just for affordable housing,” Dickens said in an interview with reporters and editors from Bloomberg News’ Atlanta bureau earlier this month. “Part of that is rent stabilization, to help people who raise their hands and say, ‘My rent went up $250 and I just don’t have it. We will therefore help these people to stay directly at home. The federal Community Reinvestment Act “was there to protect existing homeowners,” Dickens said, “by making sure we got reinvestment.” “It could be a 2.0 or higher version of ‘ARC’ just to keep communities out of being invaded by bank investors,” he said.

Luckily for Dickens, the city of 510,000 outshines big cities with larger urban populations, such as Los Angeles, Houston and New York, as well as similarly sized Miami, Milwaukee and Sacramento, with a coveted superlative: exceptional creditworthiness. . As municipal finances have deteriorated nationwide during the pandemic, data compiled by Bloomberg shows Atlanta earned the best measure of credit quality based on 10 economic criteria: total assets, building permits , total liabilities, house price index, excess of income over expenditure, other funds , property tax revenue, median income, non-farm employment and unemployment.

The combination of falling liabilities, rising tax revenue and median income proves unbeatable, giving Atlanta Bloomberg the highest investment grade of IGI 1, higher than struggling Chicago (DS1), Philadelphia (IG4), New York, Milwaukee, Miami (IG3), Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Sacramento (IG2). Only Phoenix, with a population nearly three and a half times that of Atlanta, can match its creditworthiness, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

No American city comes close to the success of Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, perennial No. 1 in the world and whose passenger traffic has increased 76.4% from the depths of the pandemic in 2020 to 75, 7 million in 2021, according to Airports Council International. In the United States, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas is also ranked No. 2, with 62.5 million. “Our airport is extremely useful” because people want the ability to fly anywhere in the United States, which Atlanta makes easier than its competitors, Dickens said.

The other ingredient of Atlanta’s exceptionalism is the city’s diverse business community, Dickens said, pointing to the Women Entrepreneurship Initiative, which bills itself as the only city-funded program of its kind in the country. . “Does no place in the country have this depth and breadth of black talent, let alone black female talent,” he said. “If you’re supporting black women business owners, you’re basically supporting family in the community, and I love that logic model.”

This is another reason why Atlanta has more assets than any American metropolis.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Matthew A. Winkler, Editor Emeritus of Bloomberg News, writes about the markets.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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