A most valiant effort to unite the state of Georgia continues to prosper despite a lack of visible support from its top leaders.
GeorgiaForward, which will hold its fourth annual forum in Atlanta on July 11 and 12 at the Georgia Tech Conference Center, has built a grassroots following of civic, business and political officials from all over the state who seek to bridge the various forces that divide our state.
Those include Atlanta versus the rest of the state or perhaps more importantly — urban versus rural versus suburban; income divides, racial and ethnic divides, generational divides and political divides.
The goal has been to build consensus on a shared vision for where and how we want our state to evolve.
Unfortunately two of the state’s top political leaders — Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — have not yet become engaged in GeorgiaForward, an organization which began in 2010 out of concern of the growing polarization between metro Atlanta and the rest of the state.
The relationship between Deal and Reed actually embodies the spirit that GeorgiaForward hopes can spread throughout the state. Deal, a Republican from Gainesville, and Reed, a Democrat from Atlanta, have found a way to collaborate — especially in trying to get federal support to deepen the Savannah port’s shipping channel.
“We’ve always invited the mayor and the governor,” said Amir Farokhi, GeorgiaForward’s executive director. “We have an open door for everyone to participate. This is a fantastic platform to demonstrate the type collaboration that they have exhibited and to set that kind of collaborative tone for the rest of the state.”
For the first GeorgiaForward forum outside of Macon, it was during the gubernatorial election. Both Deal and former Gov. Roy Barnes participated via video-conferencing.