Rise of the New South

Forget the clichéd confederate rallying cry “the South will rise again!” The American Southeast has, in fact, recently managed to change the nation’s perception and rebrand itself as arguably the most up-and-coming region in the country. As its unofficial “capital” city, Atlanta, GA is a perfect example of the rise of this “New” South.

Over the course of the past half century, Atlanta has successfully managed to emerge from its shadowed past, marked by attitudes of slavery and rebellion, and rebrand itself as a modern hub of business and culture. The change in the city’s brand image was kickstarted by milestones in the Civil Rights Movement that took place there during the 1960s, spearheaded by native son Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to attracting four professional sports teams in the second half of the 20th century, the city underwent major revitalization in pursuit of hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics. The city also took major steps in marketing itself to attract major conventions, increase tourism, and attract new residents. These initiatives have helped market Atlanta as a city on the rise, igniting a transformation into an influential and cosmopolitan city.

Thanks to effective marketing of the area’s business-friendly legislative environment and readily available labor, large companies like UPS, the Home Depot, and Newell-Rubbermaid, among others, call Atlanta home. One of the largest is Delta Airlines, which has helped Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport earn the title of the world’s busiest airport annually since 2005. This statistic is meaningful to the branding of Atlanta as one of the most accessible cities in the world.

Atlanta is a hub for sustainable, green-focused building and lifestyle initiatives. The Atlanta Beltline, currently under construction, is one of the largest and most ambitious eco-friendly urban development projects ever undertaken. Reclaimed spaces and new constructions using renewable materials are the trademark of real estate around the city, setting a trend that has latched on in other urban areas across the US.

Culturally, Atlanta headlines a list of destination cities in the region boasting a healthy mix of high-end, chef-driven restaurants receiving praise at the national level, a blossoming ethnic restaurant culture, and traditional Southern eateries that put a form of history on a plate. The city has also become a major center for film and television production, earning the nickname “Hollywood South.” Education is proliferating too. Nearly 43 percent of adults in the city have college degrees as compared to 27 percent in the nation as a whole, with Georgia Tech and Emory leading the way as world-class institutions of higher learning and research. This renaissance has all but destroyed the stereotype of the undereducated, uncultured Southerner.

Thanks to the growth of business and increased quality of life, Atlanta has had little trouble selling itself. People from all parts of the world have been attracted to the city as permanent residents, helping the population grow almost six fold since 1950. From 2000-2008, Atlanta added 1.13 million people to its population, more than any other city except Dallas. With this boom in population, the South has combined its own age-old ethos with national and global influences to market a unique new identity that is drawing serious attention from people around the world. Perhaps that is what the old cliché rallying cry is all about.