AJC at SXSW: Atlanta acts and what the South has to say

Austin, Texas — The tri-level Speakeasy lounge on bustling Congress Avenue will feel a little like Atlanta teleported itself to the capital of the Lone Star State.


The Speakeasy, 412 Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, July 11, 2013. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

On Sunday and Monday, ChooseATL, a campaign to sell Atlanta has a creative capital of the South, will hold court during South by Southwest in this Austin hotspot, with parties, concerts and panels on what sets Atlanta apart.

The aim, says ChooseATL chief Kate Atwood, is to show young professionals at SXSW that Atlanta is a place to start a company and set their future.

Link: Atlanta to woo young professionals at SXSW

It’s an economic development push wrapped around personal touch, not a hard sell pitch to land the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies.

By some measures, Atlanta hasn’t kept up with peer cities in the war to attract talented young professionals.

Steve Cantrell

Atlanta hip-hop artist Steve Cantrell performs at SweetWater Brewing Co. during a recent event for ChooseATL. The Metro Atlanta Chamber through its ChooseATL campaign plans a two-day sales pitch at South by Southwest to show recruit young professionals to come to Atlanta. J. Scott Trubey/ strubey@ajc.com

For some, Atlanta is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the city too busy to hate and a capital of southern business and culture. It’s Coca-Cola, grits, sweat tea and 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

For others, Atlanta is synonymous with traffic, sprawl and the connecting point between flights to somewhere else.

Atwood calls the two days at the Speakeasy – or ChooseATL House — Atlanta’s Epcot Center.

Sure, there will be events to spotlight Atlanta’s cred as a tech hub, but what Atwood’s team really hopes to sell is the region’s quality of life.

Ponce City Market, the Beltline and the region’s cool neighborhoods, and food culture will be key selling points. Another major cultural touchstone will be the region’s music scene.

Groups like R City and Ruby Woo will headline parties deep into the night.

Killer Mike

Killer Mike of Run the Jewels performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Friday, October 9, 2015. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Killer Mike and music executive Shanti Das will open Sunday morning with a discussion of how the Run the Jewels rapper has progressed through his career as an advocate for social change. Killer Mike has emerged as a well-known surrogate of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“It’s not so much an economic development tool as it is to sell the brand and let people know what an incredible place we are,” said Grant Wainscott, director of technology and industry expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the organization over ChooseATL.

Link: See a schedule of ChooseATL in Austin

Foz Syed, a musician and promoter who booked acts for the ChooseATL House, will be promoting his own band, Avenue of the Giants, as well as BNMC and Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics.

“We will be basically highlighting the tech, art, and music side of Atlanta,” Syed said. “Highlighting how much creativity and talent we have in our city. This is one of the first catalysts that has united such varied industries in Atlanta to work together on a combined effort.”

Going to Austin to perform is a huge coup and also a gamble for young groups.

“For young artists it can be either a blessing or too much to handle,” he said. “There is a lot of noise out there so you have to be good enough to shine through all that.”

But leveraging an audience at the ChooseATL House can provide dividends for both Atlanta’s rising acts and the cache of Atlanta itself.

Syed said this SXSW can show that Atlanta is “ready to compete on a global level.”

AJC in Austin

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter J. Scott Trubey will be in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest and to follow the ChooseATL campaign. Follow him on Twitter through his handles @FitzTrubey and @ajcrealestate. He’ll also post to Snapchat at fitztrubey and ajcnews