ATLANTA (AP) - Mayor Kasim Reed on Thursday told the city's business, government and philanthropic community it must choose again to be the economic engine of the region and focus on economic development and job creation as the keys to rebuilding the Southern capital.
"Atlanta ... really is best when we dream," Reed said at his annual State of the City address, evoking the memory of its most famous citizen, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was marked this week.
"This city has been built by business people and political leaders who believed that we were always more than we were ever given credit for being," he said. "This town is an intentional town, and we've got to be that again. We're going to be first. We're going to win."
Reed signaled he plans to get creative about the city's future, as he announced the renaming and revamping of the Atlanta Development Authority. The agency will now be known as Invest Atlanta, and in addition to helping residents buy homes, issuing bonds and incentives for new development and providing small business loans, it will also focus on international trade, innovation and entrepreneurship.
"Invest Atlanta will continue to honor the historic mission of the authority, but it will add components to allow Atlanta to compete in the 21st century globalized environment," Reed said.
The mayor also announced a new hiring initiative, TweetMyJobs. The online jobs platform will deliver listings via Facebook, Twitter, email or cellphone. Reed said more than 85,000 jobs listings within the city limits are currently available.
He boasted Atlanta is the first city in the U.S. to use the service.
"Take that, Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Emanuel!" he said, a dig at the leaders of New York and Chicago.
Reed underscored the need for continued commitment to infrastructure improvements in the city and state, specifically with regard to transportation. He urged the passing of the regional transportation tax referendum Georgia voters are expected to weigh in on later this year, which he called "the most significant thing we can do to ensure that our future continues to rise." Reed also told the audience he and Gov. Nathan Deal planned to meet with Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood later Thursday to discuss the deepening of the Savannah port ahead of the 2014 expansion of the Panama Canal.
Halfway into a four-year term, Reed also touted the accomplishments of his administration. The 42-year-old mayor reminded the audience that much of his first two years in office were focused on the health of the city: restoring basic services; hiring more than 400 police officers and 75 firefighters to improve safety and perceptions of crime; and addressing a looming pension crisis of more than $1.5 billion.
Reed said the city has shored up its reserve fund, from $7.4 million when he took office, to more than $94 million.
"It means we're becoming strong again," he said.
He spoke of the need to be "a true global city," and said that international business alliances like the ones the city has already fostered with France, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain and Qatar must be expanded. Reed invited business leaders in the audience to join him on a trade mission to China in March. Deal also visited the country last year.
"I will go wherever I need to go to generate well-paying jobs for the city of Atlanta," he said.