CIH Spotlight: Cynthia Curry

Jul 18, 2023

The Georgia Cleantech Innovation Hub’s ‘Spotlight’ Series aims to showcase leaders, companies and entrepreneurs making a difference for Cleantech, climate tech, and sustainability in Georgia.

Can you describe what the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) does?

The MAC is a nonprofit, privately funded representative of the entire 29-county metro area. We work to build a strong business environment across the 29 counties and make sure the business environment is equitable and ripe for innovation.

What do you do within the Metro Atlanta Chamber?

I am helping to build jobs and investments in the Cleantech space. I serve on the economic development team, with the purpose of bringing jobs and investment here, and which is made up of several focus verticals, including healthcare, manufacturing, FinTech, and entertainment, among others. My focus area is on SmartCities and Cleantech.

At the end of the day, my role is as a connector, making sure I connect people who need to know each other. We call ourselves “guides” on the journey; I always joke that I’m like a sherpa, shouting with joy when everyone gets to the top of the mountain successfully. We are here to unleash Atlanta’s ambition and there is so much of that in the Cleantech space.

How did you end up in this role?

I volunteered with the Chamber for 7 or 8 years before they hired me, back when mobility was just emerging (phones, not cars like it is now!). I have a background of community building, especially in building talent communities. When the “Internet of Things” (IoT) became more prevalent, the Chamber brought me on to make that transition from mobility to IoT, and it naturally developed into a focus on SmartCities as the region progressed.

Some time ago, we transitioned our focus to nurturing the Cleantech ecosystem to leverage tech for good and harness the innovation of the region in the space. We have beautiful bipartisan support for the advancement of cleantech in the region. Our board members drive our priorities, and as sustainability became a concern and higher priority for them, it became a priority for MAC as well. Now, I’m probably more focused on Cleantech, although Smart Cities and Cleantech are so interrelated. For example, even intelligent traffic lights are going to cut down on our carbon footprint because we don’t have cars idling for as long.

What excites you about Cleantech in Atlanta and Georgia?

Wow. I feel we are at a prime position to make Metro Atlanta a global Cleantech hub! We just have so much momentum behind what’s happening here. I always say that “Collaboration is Atlanta’s super power” and that combined with the thought leadership, innovation, and bipartisan support of the region has created an unparalleled opportunity.  We have built an incredible EV circular economy, and thriving solar and hydrogen economies.  Since the passing of the IRA, Georgia is the number one state for investment in the country in the Cleantech space, with $15B invested, and over 16,000 jobs created.

This sector is creating jobs of the future while making a better world for future generations. We’re excited to lean in and help continue building the momentum for metro Atlanta. The future of the workforce is a high priority, and we have so many wonderful opportunities here in Georgia, including education and skill building. We have a beautifully diverse workforce, and we are able to diversify the Cleantech space in a way that’s very necessary.

What can the Climate Innovation Hub do in this space?

Collaboration is key, and we are already working on that. The ability for people to have one place to go to seek knowledge is so important. Bringing together startups with corporations and giving them an opportunity to gather together and serve as a pipeline in this space will be important. That allows us to keep the talent here in Atlanta. We do have a need in the “back of the napkin” phase here in Atlanta; we have great programs that can help take startups to Series A, or Series B. But we need a place where people can launch the ideas, get knowledge, find partners, mentorship, and discover best practices, and that’s a big advantage for the CIH. It can also be a rich source of research – what’s here, who’s doing what – an amplifier of what’s going on in the Cleantech space. We also want to celebrate it so everyone knows what’s going on here.

I was recently in California, and the perception of Atlanta is finally changing. I don’t think people really knew what was happening here several years ago, but we are getting a reputation as an innovative and diverse startup hub, and people are noticing that Cleantech innovation is happening here in Atlanta. With partnerships like Georgia Tech, ARC, Southface, Drawdown Georgia, Engage, and so many others, we have so much momentum here.

Advice for entrepreneurs

I’m not, nor have I been an entrepreneur, but I do feel it’s valuable for anyone to connect with as many people as possible and build relationships. Entrepreneurs are often heads down, and it’s helpful to step out to meet your community. It’s hard to do, because you have to do everything, but relationship building and community building is really, really key and can help you thrive.


Get to know Cynthia

How long have you lived in Atlanta?

  • I’ve lived here since I was a junior in high school, and I’ve been in Decatur for the past 25 years.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

  • I’m a huge cyclist, and have biked across Utah, Portugal, and Spain
  • I’m also a giant music addict (listening to, not playing), and huge foodie, so Atlanta is the right place for me.

What is your favorite place in Atlanta?

  • The Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum. It’s incredibly inspiring, and I feel it directly relates to my current role to ensure we carry forward equity in what we work on at the Chamber.

What book have you read recently?

  • I just finished Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, which was amazing.
  • I am also rereading Bill Nussey’s Freeing Energy. He’s filled with such great information.
  • I’ve also enjoyed The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama, which I recommend to anyone who is going through a transition.