Doug Hooker, Atlanta Regional Commission's executive director, was the keynote speaker at the March 20 Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon.
Doug Hooker, Atlanta Regional Commission’s executive director, was the keynote speaker at the March 20 Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon.

“What kind of future do we want metro Atlanta to have?” asked Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission at a March 30 Perimeter Business Alliance luncheon.

He told the crowd of business and city leaders gathered at the Hyatt Perimeter Atlanta in Brookhaven that the metro area had to have the resources to remain a vibrant and attractive place as folks continue to move to the fast-growing region.

Unfortunately, Hooker said, the region’s reputation has been “sullied” by the failure of TSPLOST, declining water supplies, the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal and last year’s “Snowmageddon” when traffic was snarled 24 hours during a snow storm.

However, the metro area can reemerge if it addresses some issues, Hooker said.

He explained that one step is to develop more compact, walkable communities.

“We have spread out very far in the region, now we have to think about spreading up,” Hooker said, adding that mixed-use communities attract both young people and baby boomers looking to retire.

He said that the area also needs more transportation options. Hooker used the Perimeter area as an example, saying it was on the “cutting edge” of leveraging its MARTA stations around living and working spaces. He said that companies like State Farm and Mercedes are relocating here because of the access to transit.

Education is another area that needs the support of everyone, Hooker said. “It is all of our issue.”

Hooker said the region is making steps in the right direction. He said the Atlanta area reduced it’s water usage by 10 percent from 2000 to 2010, while adding one million people. But, “it’s still not enough,” Hooker said. He also said that while the state is proposing a $1 billion transportation package, that’s just a “down payment,” and should even look to spending as high as $2 1/2 billion a year.

“If we don’t invest in us how can we expect anyone else to invest in us?” Hooker asked.