South Metro leaders to gather at South Metro Development Outlook

South Metro leaders to gather at South Metro Development Outlook

South Fulton and Henry County business and government leaders can get the stories behind successes and learn of upcoming regional improvements and challenges all in one place and on one day, Feb. 21, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The occasion will be the 17th annual South Metro Development Outlook conference at the Georgia International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Concourse in College Park.

Among its speakers last year was Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts, who said, “the future is really south Fulton,” is a favorite saying of his.

“You can see the beauty of the land, the undeveloped land and the potential,” he said.

Then-Fulton County Chief Operating Officer Todd Long said South Fulton Parkway is “the gateway to a lot of open land,” and described transportation options planned for the corridor.

Henry County Development Authority Executive Director Leonard Sledge also addressed attendees.

“When a company makes a decision for Henry County, they’re making a decision for the south metro area,” he said during a 2017 panel discussion about economic development. “It’s a ‘yes’ for all of us.”

Sledge will return this year, along with other leaders like Atlanta Regional Commission Executive Director Doug Hooker, economist Roger Tutterow, Ph.D., and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Christopher Tomlinson.

Also on the agenda are MARTA CEO Jeff Parker, College Park Mayor Jack P. Longino, Atlanta Hawks CEO Steven Koonin, Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance Chair Shannon James and Aerotropolis Atlanta Community Improvement Districts Executive Director Gerald McDowell, among others.

The conference’s organizer is Michael Hightower, managing partner of East Point-based land use planning, program management and real estate development company The Collaborative Firm LLC.

Its projects include an Atlanta streetcar expansion strategy, programs and plans for the cities of College Park, East Point and Hampton, and design guidelines for Highway 138, according to its website.

Hightower said he encourages attendees to explore economic growth, planning, infrastructure and other issues at the event.

“(SMDO) serves as a platform to convene elected officials and industry professionals with a common interest in examining and discussing relevant growth-related issues in the southern crescent,” Hightower said in a statement.

According to its website, the conference is the largest of its kind in metro Atlanta.

Its focus is on a region that includes Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, and Henry counties and the city of Atlanta.

Topics will include transit, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s expansion, the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, industry trends and their impact on economic development, according to its Eventbrite page.

Breakout sessions will highlight the Small Business Association, workforce development and smart cities.

“The south metro area of Atlanta continues to grow and be a great location for economic development. I am excited to have the SMDO conference highlight many of the key projects and companies that continue to flourish here on the south side,” Hightower said.

About 600 participants are anticipated.

Previous attendees have included city of Stockbridge elected officials.

Stockbridge City Councilman Elton Alexander last year commended Hightower for assembling “the Who’s Who of south metro Atlanta.”

Since 2003, according to a news release, the conference has convened south Atlanta’s “most reputable experts and illustrious government and business leaders, as well as introduced and highlighted some of the most prominent economic development initiatives.”

The event also includes an award ceremony.

Tickets are $75 in advance, $85 at the door.

Information: 404-684-7031, or

Article written by Noreen Cochran for South Metro Neighbor

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