Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee:
I am Herschel Abbott, vice president Ė governmental affairs for BellSouth. I spent most of my life practicing law but now I am a recovering lawyer and I direct BellSouthís legislative and regulatory presence in Washington. I canít count the number of times Iíve testified before various commissions or lawmaking bodies, but I can tell you this is one of the times when I am delighted to be here.
At a time when you canít open the morning paper without fresh evidence of corporate misdeeds, I get to sit here and tell you that my company, BellSouth, is a hero back in its hometown of Atlanta, Georgia; a hero of the leadership that Americans expect and deserve from business.
In Atlanta, BellSouthís headquarters city, BellSouth is:
Itís a process scheduled to be complete in September 2003. When it is complete, BellSouth will:
In fact, BellSouthís effort is the continuation of a long-standing commitment to urban development, going all the way back to 1980 when the company built the 45-story BellSouth Center, the first office building in Atlanta with a mass transit station underneath. Thirty percent of our employees there ride public transportation.
But now let me briefly set the stage for our more recent initiative.
For those of you whose only experience of Atlanta is changing planes at Hartsfield Airport, let me tell you that Atlanta is a clean, vibrant city with friendly people and lush green suburbs. People tend to like Atlanta. They have been flocking there since the 1960s. In fact, between 1960 and 2000, Atlanta has not seen a decade where it grew by less than 27 percent. Growth in the most recent decade, 1990 Ė 2000, was 39 percent, with metro Atlanta adding nearly a half-million out-of-state residents since 1990. The region is home to three of the nation's fastest-growing counties: Forsyth, Henry and Paulding.
Atlantans now have a metropolitan area with approximately 4 million residents and suburbs that stretch, it seems, to Tennessee in the north; to Alabama in the West; toward South Carolina in the east; and into the flat lands of south central Georgia to the South.
California isnít the only place where people have fallen in love with their cars. Itís said of Atlantans that they would drive from the kitchen to the bedroom if only they could figure out how to get the car in the house. Had metro Atlanta sprawled the way it does now in the summer of 1864, General Sherman and his troops would still be strung out between Chattanooga and Atlanta with their turn signals on trying to merge into southbound traffic on Interstate 75.
The growth has taken its toll. Atlantans endure the nation's longest commuteóan average daily round trip of 34 miles for every person in Atlanta. They spend 69 hours annually, or nearly nine workdays a year, sitting in traffic.
At the same time, new road projects have been stalled because the region is too frequently out of compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards for ground-level ozone. Atlanta exceeds acceptable federal air quality standards an average of 11 days each year during the ozone season of May to September.
Thatís the challenge Atlanta faces.
The challenge BellSouth faced three and a half years ago was symptomatic of Atlantaís rapid growth. BellSouthís metro Atlanta employee population grew 22 percent between 1993 and 1999, from approximately 15,000 to well over 18,000.
Like the city, we not only grew, we spread out. Before we created our Atlanta Metro Plan, we had a total of 61 leased and owned facilities for office workers. With the completion of the Atlanta Metro Plan, the great majority of BellSouthís white-collar workers will go to work in five office complexes that stretch from downtown to the cityís near north side along one of Atlantaís main commuter rail lines.
After moves to the three new facilities, BellSouth will have relocated approximately 9,800 employees from more than 20 properties, with the result that approximately 85% of BellSouthís employees in metro Atlanta will be working within walking distance of a rail line.
Of course, this is a plan that makes good business sense. But itís also a plan that consciously and determinedly makes good civic planning sense. And if I can finish by bragging, it points the way for other companies in Atlanta and elsewhere. It is an example of a company, led by our chairman and CEO Duane Ackerman, which set out to do the right thing -- not only for its employees and shareholders, but also its city and the environment. And that is real civic leadership.
Thank you for your attention. At the appropriate time, now or later, Iíd be happy to try to answer any questions you may have.
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