While most people in the Atlanta area have heard of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), a lot of them don’t have a firm grasp on exactly what the organization does. ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker stopped by Cushman & Wakefield’s office earlier this week to discuss what ARC does for Atlanta and the region, and what they’re working on for 2016.
ARC was the first such regional planning commission in the United States, formed in 1947, to be a conduit for innovation to support the growth and development of the metro area’s local communities. There are 39 members of the ARC Board of Commissioners, which features a mix of mayors, private citizens, and other civic leaders; they have an annual budget of $68 million.
That budget covers all the work they do, and their list of duties goes far beyond what most think of when they think of the ARC.
“We have a lot of legal designations,” Hooker said. “A lot of people think of us as a transportation-planning agency. Which is fine. We are that. But we have a lot of different federal and state designations, and each of those informs a different part of our portfolio.”
Some of those designations include:
- Metropolitan Planning Organization — ARC helps determine long-range plans for metro-area development.
- Area Agency on Aging — ARC provides many services for seniors, from money for activities at senior centers, to Meals on Wheels, and transportation for our aging citizens. This is the biggest part of ARC’s budget.
- Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) — After 9/11, the federal government decided regions needed to be better coordinated in their response to potential attacks. ARC is the administrative manager for the program in metro Atlanta.
In addition, ARC is tasked with leading the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, which means they’ve worked to keep the metro area’s water usage down, even as the population has grown in recent years. Hooker discussed how successful they’ve been at working toward that goal.
“In 2000, we were one of the top per-capita water users in the nation, as a region” Hooker said. “By the time we got to last year, we were one of the lowest. We have dropped over 30%, as far as decreasing our water usage per person. Despite the fact that we’ve added more than a million people from 2000-2015, our total water usage has dropped by 10%.”
That mission will continue for ARC going forward, as part of the group’s future goals. Hooker said ARC’s biggest priorities for 2016 are as follows:
- HB170 funding and priority alignment
- Fulton and DeKalb TSPLOSTs support
- Regional Bicycle-Pedestrian Trail Plan
- Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance
- Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy
- Long-range water supply plan
- Aging services network adaptations
- Workforce Development Plan
- Homeland Security work (UASI)