The National Center for Civil and Human Rights: “A platform for engagement”

Moderated by Rick Badie

 Tourism, a major industry and job creator for the state, had a record year in 2013 as it generated more than $50 billion in sales. Today, an economics official offers insight on what attracts domestic as well as international visitors to Atlanta and other parts of the state. Meanwhile, the CEO for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights explains how that museum fits Atlanta’s tourism portfolio. Finally, the third essay deals with patent trolls and their potential to pester Georgia firms.

A platform for engagement

By Doug Shipman

The June opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta marks the next step in our city’s remarkable development. We are stewards of a legacy of international importance. As a city that continues to honor achievements in civil and human rights, Atlanta joins a handful of distinguished American cities, like Philadelphia and Boston, which attract millions yearly to visit Revolutionary War sites and museums. The Center marks the next step in Atlanta’s global prominence.

The Center has been designed to connect each visitor to authentic civil and human rights stories. Sitting at a segregated lunch counter, you can experience the brave fight for equality. By virtually standing face-to-face with human rights champions, you will be inspired by their triumphant and heroic stories. The Center will also be the only place you can see the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, with more than ten thousand items including handwritten notes, speeches, manuscripts, sermons, and other writings of  historical significance.

The Center will also help Atlanta attract conferences, meetings and events around issues of civil and human rights. The International Women’s Forum and Nobel Peace Laureates global summit are already headed to Atlanta. Both will hold events in our facility. A new institution like the Center creates a powerful incentive for groups to meet in Atlanta for the first time or again after many years.

The Center’s physical location on Pemberton Place, next to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, will create a “front door” for visitors to understand Atlanta’s unique standing in the world. Connect with the array of destinations in Atlanta by riding the streetcar to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, then venture a bit further to the Carter Presidential Library, then spend another day visiting the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta University Center and Breman Jewish Museum. Together, these individual treasures become a holistic historical offering to regional and national visitors.

The Center, in combination with the soon-to-open College Football Hall of Fame, will also expand the attractiveness of a multi-day tourist visit to Atlanta. With so many attractions within a small radius (including CNN Center, SkyView Atlanta and Imagine It Children’s Museum), most any group or family will have at least four venues worth their visit. That leads to more meals, room nights and overall economic activity.

Most importantly, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights represents a new era in the discussion of human rights in the United States.

As a singular, physical focal point for exhibitions and discussions of human rights, the Center will forge unique partnerships, offer groundbreaking programs and attract world-class artists, writers and activists to Atlanta to create, host, and participate in events and exhibitions. The Center represents Atlanta’s opportunity to once again become a platform for national and global engagement on a wide array of rights issues.

Doug Shipman is CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

More and more tourists discover Georgia

By Kevin Langston

Is Georgia on your mind?

The fact that Georgia is one of the nation’s top travel destinations comes as a surprise to many Georgians. Our cities, small towns, coastline and mountain views give Georgia an appeal that rivals world destinations.

With new tourists attractions opening in the next few years, we’ll offer even more activities and destinations for the visitor’s itinerary. Georgia’s tourism industry generated $53.6 billion in business sales including direct, indirect and induced impact in 2013, up 4.5 percent, the largest economic impact for the tourism industry on record.

It’s not just one factor, but a sequence of trends and developments that feed our tourism growth. International travel is growing twice as fast as domestic travel. International visitors stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors, so the international market is a target for us.

Part of the increase is due to Georgia’s great position as a gateway to the rest of the world. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the world’s busiest airport with hundreds of daily international flights. Many  international travelers are making Georgia their first stop during their U.S. visit to experience our global names such as Coca-Cola, Martin Luther King Jr., CNN, “Gone With the Wind,” Centennial Olympic Park and more.

Georgia’s booming film industry also plays a significant role in the increase in visitors. The small town of Senoia, the filming location for 24 television shows and movies — from current hits like “The Walking Dead” and “Footloose” to classics like “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Driving Miss Daisy” — has witnessed a huge rise in entertainment-related tourism. Destinations from Covington to Savannah to Juliette draw visitors from around the world to see the filming location of their favorite movie or TV show.

Tourism is one of Georgia’s leading economic engines. While it’s important to showcase its economic impact, it is also essential to recognize this industry as a jobs generator. Did you know more than 411,000 Georgia jobs are sustained by tourism? This means 10.2 percent of all jobs in the state rely on tourism. Another positive impact the industry has is that visitor spending generated $2.8 billion in state and local tax revenue, the equivalent of $770 for every Georgia household.

As more visitors discover the terrific vacation experience Georgia has to offer, our tourism economy will continue to grow. That means increased investment, new jobs and a higher quality of life for all of us who call the state home.

Georgia is a leading travel destination for visitors from around the world. I encourage you to discover what’s in your own backyard. Visit ExploreGeorgia.org to plan a Georgia vacation. Whether it’s checking out our events calendar, planning a weekend getaway or finding a great deal, there is always something new to discover in Georgia.

Kevin Langston is deputy commissioner of tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Patent trolls hurt firms

By Stephen DeMaura

A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal to reduce frivolous litigation by “patent trolls” — people or companies that own patents for the sole purpose of filing lawsuits  takes effect July 1. For Peach State businesses, House Bill 809 is a huge win.

Patent trolls levy costly legal fees on American businesses by filing often frivolous lawsuits and threats. Revenue spent defending these charges could be reinvested in a company, spurring growth and creating jobs in our state and elsewhere.

Perhaps this is why the U.S. Senate still hopes to mark up the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, a counter bill to the adopted Innovation Act in the House of Representatives that similarly seeks to limit “troll behavior.” I hope that our leaders in Washington can come to some compromise and lead, as  Georgia leaders did in April.

I also hope the conversation is broadened to the international business community, because a number of foreign governments have set up their own government-sponsored patent trolls. Privately owned, foreign patent trolls also wreak havoc.

Last fall, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Cisco’s General Counsel Mark Chandler said these entities “are intended to serve national economic objectives in taxing our industries to generate a return for their industries. They will likely harm U.S. companies and consumers.”

His example: The Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization,  has sued Cisco and other American companies with one goal in mind: Every time wireless devices — including cell phones, wireless routers, laptops and more — are sold in the United States, the Australian troll will be paid a portion of the cost. The troll has already settled other lawsuits with technology companies like AT&T, Dell and Nintendo, winning awards totaling $430 million.

Such activity has been seen in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and France. France Brevets, a patent investment fund, has been particularly brazen by publicly stating its bias toward protecting French assets over potential foreign competitors.

On the private side, Sisvel, an Italian-based patent licensing outfit, has garnered media attention for taking trolling actions to the next level: It coordinates with foreign authorities to raid alleged infringers’ displays and seizes their products at trade shows.

It is important that we recognize the scope of patent trolls. In the many industries where patents are essential including consumer technology, the market should remain the driver of innovation and competition. The United States government must protect the American economy and worker from trolls — foreign and domestic.

As our federal lawmakers push forward legislation addressing private domestic patent trolls, they must also address unscrupulous foreign activity. The American economy and worker depend on it.

Stephen DeMaura is the president of Americans for Job Security.

 

 


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