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2 ways an Atlanta resident is helping the growing tech hub attract talent and business

Erica Sweeney   

2 ways an Atlanta resident is helping the growing tech hub attract talent and business

  • Cynthia Curry is the director of smart cities for the Metro Atlanta Chamber in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Her team aims to boost economic development and make the city more equitable for all residents.
  • Initiatives she's involved with include building EV infrastructure and addressing systemic racism.

Atlanta's population is rising as it becomes one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country. As the director of smart cities for the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), Cynthia Curry is dedicated to strengthening the region's tech ecosystem in the hopes of boosting economic development and making the city more equitable for all residents.

Curry, who's lived in Atlanta for more than 35 years and worked for MAC for five years after having volunteered for the organization for several years, spends her days fostering connections and collaborations among businesses, local governments, civic leaders, and educational institutions. Her role involves helping existing companies grow and attracting new investment and talent in the 29-county Atlanta metro area.

"We make sure that the groups that are working on similar projects or that have collective goals get to know one another," Curry said. "We're breaking down silos and connecting companies and resources so that they can collaborate and come up with shared solutions and generate new public-private partnerships."

Curry said smart-city technology, such as electric vehicles, is more important than ever "to create an equitable, resilient, sustainable region" for future generations.

"Smart-city technology can solve virtually anything, and we're leveraging that here in multiple ways," she said, from public safety and water preservation to waste and traffic management.

Here's a look at some of the initiatives Curry's team is working on with the city of Atlanta.

Growing EV infrastructure

Boosting Atlanta's electronic-vehicle industry is a big focus for MAC, Curry said. One noteworthy project it's been involved in is Curiosity Lab, an economic development initiative in nearby Peachtree Corners that launched in 2019 which provides an innovation center, 5G infrastructure, and an autonomous vehicle test track to help startups, companies, and other organizations build and test smart-city technologies. In March, T-Mobile, Applied Information, and Temple Inc. announced plans to debut a 5G-connected vehicle technology in Peachtree Corners in partnership with Curiosity Lab. It'll allow traffic signals to communicate with all vehicles on roadways through an app.

Another project advancing MAC's EV goals is The Ray, an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 that's a testbed for solar-powered EV charging stations, autonomous and connected vehicle infrastructure, and more. The Atlanta region has also attracted several EV companies like electric-truck manufacturer Rivian Automotive and SK Battery, which announced plans to build plants there, and Curry said others will likely set up shop in Atlanta.

Curry serves as innovation chair for the Georgia Electric Mobility and Innovation Alliance (EMIA), a statewide initiative focused on growing the state's EV ecosystem and attracting companies and a workforce in the sector. EMIA is working on policy and incentives to make the state business-friendly to EV companies, including an annual tax credit for businesses that manufacture alternative fuel and electric vehicles. The tax credit amounts vary based on the number of new jobs the company creates.

"That's one of the newest and most exciting things we're working on right now," Curry said, adding that funding from the infrastructure bill to expand EV infrastructure will likely encourage even more growth in the region.

Ensuring smart-city growth is equitable

Curry also sits on the Atlanta Chief Information Officer Advisory Board, a city board that meets quarterly to discuss Atlanta's biggest priorities and tech-focused solutions that will make access to services more equitable.

In 2021, MAC launched the Atlanta Action for Racial Equity, a multi-year action plan to help businesses address systemic racism that affects the Black community. The plan focuses on four areas, including corporate DEI policies, education, inclusive economic development, and workforce development. MAC provides playbooks, developed by a steering committee of local business and civic leaders, for companies to help them improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the four areas. Organizations report their progress, and MAC has partnered with DEI platform Kanarys to analyze the data.

Curry said more than 250 companies, including UPS, Coca-Cola, Cox Enterprises, and Delta Air Lines, have signed on to the initiative.

Focusing on technology and equity in tandem well positions Atlanta for the future, she said, and will help the region better attract new business and residents.

"Companies and talent want to join communities that are diverse, equitable, and sustainable," Curry added.


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