Atlanta and metropolitan region face major economic and demographic issues—lack of quality affordable housing, viable transportation options, gainful employment and business opportunities—the list goes on and on.

But it is the last two areas of gainful employment and business opportunities for all, or economic inclusion, that I am bringing to your attention today.

In this column, you have heard me mention that according to Site Selection magazine, the state of Georgia is the number one place to do business but its capital city, Atlanta, is also the number one place for income inequality, according to the Brookings Institute.

How can the city that once billed itself as the “city too busy to hate” leave behind the valuable assets that are workers from communities of color and low-income communities?

How can the metropolitan area that is becoming the East Coast’s Hollywood have such a startling disconnect between the world of business and the everyday lives of workers, consumers, and community members?

The answer is alarmingly simple—we, as a collective society, have forgotten the benefit of everyone having the opportunity to thrive.

When the Great Depression ravaged our economy nearly a century ago, we instituted the New Deal to get America working again—and we pulled through together.

Today, post-Great Recession of 2007, we find ourselves catching our breath after being on the precipice of economic collapse, but one thing remains the same—together we are getting through this.

And when I mean together, I mean everyone doing their part to make sure that we ALL have the opportunity to prosper, or as we, at the Partnership for Southern Equity, like to call it—live in equity.

Equity is the elimination of barriers to success, and I submit to you, the superior growth model that allows for everyone to benefit, participate and flourish in our competitive economy regardless of race, gender, or ZIP code.

And we can only remain competitive as a city, metropolitan area, state, region, and country if we all can participate and that is through more access to employment and business opportunities.

And it’s not just jobs. It’s about a healthier and more vibrant Atlanta for everyone.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “A good-paying job makes it easier for workers to live in healthier neighborhoods, provide quality education for their children, secure child care services, and buy more nutritious food—all of which affect health.”

Someone with a well-paying job is healthier, has less stress, and could spend less on healthcare—a system already overloaded.

Vice versa, the negative effects of underemployment and nonemployment is detrimental.

This is why I am asking you to join us on June 20-21, 2019, at Morehouse College for the inaugural Just Opportunity Summit – a two-day conference hosted by the Partnership for Southern Equity’s Just Opportunity Circle, that brings together community, civic, and corporate partners to strategize and mobilize on how equitable inclusion and strategies to reduce income inequality can realize a more just and competitive economy in the American South.

According to PolicyLink’s Employment Equity Report, “Our economic future depends upon the participation and inclusion of all of our residents…achieving true ‘full employment’ across all racial and gender groups—bringing 384,000 more workers into employment—would grow Georgia’s economic output by $12 billion every year and add $2.4 billion in new state and local tax revenue annually.

Increasing employment would bring a host of collateral benefits to Georgia’s communities as newly employed workers spend (their) money locally, supporting small businesses, and revitalizing distressed commercial [and in turn, residential] areas.”

Together, we can make this a reality, not just here in Atlanta, but throughout the American South.

As an attendee to the Just Opportunity Summit, you will hear from nationally-renowned experts and community-based economic inclusion advocates about how to “level the playing field,” as well as build deep relationships with other community, equity, and business leaders to work collaboratively in advancing the economic equity movement and to ensure shared prosperity for all.

Nathaniel Smith founded and serves as the chief equity officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity and chairman of the Atlanta Public School System’s Affordable Housing Taskforce. Please get your tickets today at http://bit.ly/justopportunitysummit.

(Photo: Nathaniel Smith)

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