Atlanta and Paris mourn together

Moderated by Rick Badie

Last month, Atlanta joined the world with symbolic gestures and vigils to mourn victims of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. Today, the Atlanta-based consul general of France expresses gratitude for the love and support our city and the Southeast bestowed upon the French here and in his homeland. The companion piece, written by Georgia Tech officials, explains the importance of strengthened manufacturing ties between the U.S. and France.

Atlanta, region uplift Paris

By Denis Barbet

Most of us can recall where we were when the news broke of the horrific attacks that befell the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris on that carefree Friday night, Nov. 13. And for those of us with loved ones in France, the instinctive need to grab a phone and hear their voices, to have some sort of reassurance that somehow, everything would be OK.

In Paris, the Presidency of the Republic declared a state of emergency and the reinstatement of border checks to ensure both the security of its citizens and the timely apprehension of those involved.

In Atlanta, the response was equally rapid. Our team implemented measures to ensure maximum security and vigilance for French schools, cultural centers and official offices in our jurisdiction. We diffused an emergency hotline set up by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for victims’ families seeking information and help. Finally, with security and communications in place, we answered the strong, democratic demand to assemble.

Vigils were held across our jurisdiction — Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston, Columbia, Nashville, Greenville, Raleigh, Mobile and Hattiesburg — to pay homage to the victims and their families. It was important for the French community to gather and grieve together, alongside our American friends, to find comfort in community and to do something, however small, to show that we are not afraid; we will not renounce our way of life; we stand united with our compatriots in France against extremism and hatred.

For most of us, it was national grief — grief for our beloved city, grief for innocence lost. For a few in our community, it was a personal grief, expressing a very personal, tangible loss.

In Atlanta, we were deeply moved by the love and support from the community — from the proactive measures of our building management, the Parmenter Group, that enabled us to quickly organize a safe and orderly event at the consulate, to the hundreds of people of all nationalities, political persuasions and religions who came to show their support of France, including state Rep. Scott Holcomb, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall and members of the consular corps. We were so grateful for their presence and support.

In addition, the consulate received many messages of condolence from the community, among them, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Tech, Emory University and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. We welcomed many visitors who wished to sign our book of condolence, such as First Lady Sandra Deal on behalf of the governor.

Finally, dozens of messages, candles and flowers were left at the foot of the French flag, flying at half-mast outside our building, creating a spontaneous memorial from which the French community could find support.

I was personally quite moved by the symbolic gestures of solidarity demonstrated across Atlanta. City Council President Ceasar Mitchell led a minute of silence at a council meeting in presence of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. The Atlanta Hawks played the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, at their Sunday game against the Utah Utes, which included French player Rudy Gobert. And despite the bustle of the city, the tricolours of the Republic of France radiated into the night on the Georgia Aquarium, the downtown Ferris wheel, Atlanta City Hall, the Intercontinental Hotel and many other landmarks, reminding us that we were not alone.

Indeed, the historic French-American relationship is alive and strong. We need each other more than ever. Recently, French President François Hollande met with President Barak Obama to discuss an international coalition and future tactics in our united fight against terrorism. As the Nov. 13 attacks clearly demonstrated, extremism affects all of us. It is not a discriminator of persons or religions, as we are reminded by the 130 victims representing 19 nationalities. Our only way forward in this fight against terrorism is together in the respect of the law and our shared values.

Denis Barbet is consul general of France in Atlanta.

Tech advances, U.S., France manufacturing

By Ben Wang, Yves Berthelot

Manufacturing is integral to the economies of France and the United States, and job creation in this sector is on the rise in both countries. It is essential to cultivate strategic partnerships with researchers across the globe if we are to create jobs, solve industrial challenges and grow as leaders in manufacturing innovation.

As the hub for manufacturing innovation in the Southeast, it was only natural Georgia Tech was instrumental in organizing the Scientific Symposium on the Future of Manufacturing as part of France-Atlanta 2015.

France-Atlanta is an annual series of events focused on scientific, business, cultural and humanitarian issues, with the mission of strengthening relations by fostering cooperation between the Southeast and France. Now in its sixth year, it is organized by Tech and the Consulate General of France in Atlanta.

The symposium, held in October at the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, included speakers and participants covering all facets of manufacturing in France and the U.S. The objective: Pose questions and address the demands and challenges faced by French and American industries while exploring opportunities for future collaboration.

Sessions addressed five major challenges affecting manufacturing across the globe:

Economic and environmental sustainability: It is imperative we operate in ways that minimize the impact on the environment, create safe and attractive workplaces, and maximize profits so our economies grow and prosper.

New materials for smart and customized products: In the quest to create products that are more reliable and easier to manufacture, scientists have discovered ways to miniaturize components and create new, stronger and lighter materials. Companies must rethink and retool nearly everything they do because of the changing nature of manufacturing and the materials we use.

The robot and the human: Manufacturers have long used robots, but what we need to look at now is how these robots can interact with human co-workers to improve efficiency and product quality.

The digital factory: The “Internet of Things” is today’s hot buzzword, but for manufacturing to make substantial progress, we must harness the power of connectivity and automation. Having continual access to data about operations, accuracy, speed, inputs and outputs is critical to efficiently manufacturing products within the factory and outside with suppliers and customers.

Education and workforce development: Technological advances in manufacturing demand a highly skilled workforce. Science, technology, engineering and math need to be integrated into our education system earlier and more effectively as well as throughout the professional life of the workforce. If we are to remain globally competitive, we need more young people to study these fields.

Our takeaways from the symposium were that manufacturing is key to our nation’s economic security; manufacturing innovation is more important than ever, and the Southeast is emerging as the center of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

Symposium participants agreed to put together a task force to ensure our institutions’ offerings are aligned with industry interests and to work toward launching joint research and educational projects in 2016. We are certain our collaboration with France will continue to grow and generate research and innovation to address the manufacturing challenges of the future.

Ben Wang is executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. Yves Berthelot is Georgia Tech’s vice provost for international initiatives.

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