Tag Archives: Atlanta

Corporate Moves in Atlanta

Georgia, Atlanta, Atlanta tech, tech industry, tech expansion, silicon valley, corporate diversity

March 22, 2021

Atlanta      No question. Having visited Atlanta somewhat regularly over the years, and more frequently over the last six months, there doesn’t seem much question that the area is exploding. Traffic is soul-crunching, although much, much better during the pandemic. Suburbs are sprouting like weeds. Apartment complexes are hidden behind every stand of trees and around the corner of every hillside.

The Wall Street Journal jumped into the conversation from two sides recently that were headscratchers. On one hand, they interviewed African-Americans who had relocated to Atlanta or had stayed in the area after attending one of the bunches of historic Black colleges and universities in the area. Given the fact that the majority of the city proper is African-American, all of that made sense, especially since some of the movement was from Silicon Valley, the W-2 capital of the country for Whites and Wealth. On the other hand, the report underlined how these same tech companies were expanding in the Atlanta area and adding thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of square feet in office space in the name of diversity. Looking at the second hand was less comfortable, once you think about it.

It’s probably neck-and-neck on whether the last post-war years are more profoundly case studies of corporatist government control and policy between Dallas and Atlanta. Both are what and what in terms of Fortune 500 headquarters, airport traffic, and general transportation hubs. In fact, that’s why they exist. These are not port towns or big river cities. They are gateways in no small part built by railroads. Atlanta business interests are perhaps more publicity and image conscious than Dallas, which noses them ahead perhaps. Both cities try to keep two conflicting ideas in their heads at the same time: the ability to attract workers and companies of all stripes which means at least seeming a bit more liberal, while also maintaining rock ribbed conservative policies and programs just this side of reactionary at the state level. The current Georgia legislatures voter suppression efforts are perhaps the best example. The outcome will still be bad, but after major corporations weighed in recently so that no-excuse absentee voting and Sunday voting will now survive, because Republicans were about to create barriers that would embarrass their overlords.

Nonetheless, the notion that Atlanta might be Silicon Valley east in order to finally achieve diversity at this late stage shouldn’t bring any standing applause for best practices. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Googles and their like have much better diversity numbers in Atlanta that are triggering their expansion, but that sounds a bit like playing with the numbers, stacking the deck in the South while leaving Silicon Valley as white, wealthy and privileged as it has been for decades. More space and workers in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville doesn’t solve the issue in California.

No one in Atlanta is going to turn down new jobs. That’s the DNA of the city. Silicon Valley still needs to get its house in order and end its de facto segregation.

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Talking Organizing in Atlanta

New Orleans  Having not flown in months, I was curious what was up in the airways.  My 6:15 AM on a Saturday to Atlanta was the first flight out of New Orleans.  That was already strange.  It used to be one of many.  Where was the 5:28 AM to Houston?  The 6:00 AM to Chicago?  The early flight to New York?  Nowhere, that’s where.  The next surprise was that everything went faster.  I was the only one in the TSA-PRE line.  They screen for temperatures at the gym, but not on the airlines.  Better have a cup of coffee at home, because there was nothing open anywhere in the airport.  Not leaving at least.  Only Chili’s coming back.  It was a ghost town.  On Delta, zones were on the boarding pass, but the boarding was by rows, back to front.  Bringing back the old school, and I liked it.  When the bell rang on landing, I jumped up.  I was surprised that everyone ahead of me kept sitting down.  Social distancing, I guess?

But that was all about what’s up in the air, the real takeaway from Atlanta in my meeting with folks about organizing there, is the on-the-ground benefit of being in the same room in a different city taking part in the valuable cross fertilization of ideas that comes from face-to-face-mask-to-mask conversations.   I’ll give you a couple of examples to prove the point.

  • Talking about the long lines in Georgia polling stations and the similar problems around the country in Louisville, Milwaukee, and elsewhere, a constant refrain in the excuses of election authorities is that the reduced number of manual polling sites was because they didn’t have the poll staff willing to work. Anyone who has ever voted has seen the crew at the polling stations.  This is like the waiting room of a Social Security office.  The ones without gray hair are political cronies making an extra day’s wage complete with donuts for breakfast and fried chicken for lunch.  Talking to my colleagues and new friends in Atlanta, here was an idea for a quick campaign:  an organization should mass file names of “volunteers” willing to be trained to handle the polls in November so there would be a full force.  Who could turn that down?  In states trying to run from the mail ballot, it matters that we have as many open polling locations as possible!
  • In cities like Atlanta and Memphis where the rent amnesty is ending July 31st, local activists are predicting a tsunami of evictions. In New York City on July 1st for example they are expecting 50-60,000.  In these cities the new big landlords are connected at the hip to huge Wall Street private equity companies, so it’s a twofer.  In the wave of resistance now, how about a mass protest and campaign to block the landlords from filing to evict that puts pressure on courts and civil sheriffs to refuse to process evictions?  Supplemental unemployment will still be good, so the troops are out there.  Given the massive support of grassroots donors this day for new activism, it might even hit a cord and raise some money.
  • Training? People are suddenly desperate for a way to up skill for this moment!

See what I mean?  The back and forth of listening, discussion, and synthesis is not something that the Hollywood Squares of Zoom is best at handling.  As hard as it always is, and as virtually impossible as it is now, there’s a reason that organizers have to travel to get closer to people who want to make things happen and help them along.  Atlanta was calling, and it was hard not to pick up the phone.  We’re open for business again!

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