AJC asks: Is 2012 a pivotal year — a turning point — for Atlanta’s future?

The answer to the question in the title is yes. A sharp, clear yes.

Of course, 2011 is not even over yet, so plenty more could happen this year. However, the legislature won’t start anything new this year, an increasingly austere federal government is unlikely to send lots of bucks this way, the all-important regional transportation sales tax vote isn’t until next year, etc., etc.

The AJC is considering 2012 a turning point in its new series Atlanta Forward. The weeklong series should be interesting; it begins today with this premise:

The last half of the 20th century belonged to Atlanta. But this is a different century, and Atlanta seems like a different place. Where is the luster of the 1990s? The jobs? The growth? For us, 2012 will be a decisive moment: Will it be the year we found our nerve and restored our verve, or the year we decided to give up?

To an important degree, the future of the state will be dependent on the future of Atlanta.

One of the most disturbing bits of data is that Atlanta will not reach its pre-recession peak of employment until the second half of 2014. While the state’s leaders were frittering away the last few years insisting that we’re a great place to do business, the state generally and Atlanta specifically were hemorrhaging jobs.

Atlanta and the rest of the state — including Savannah — were hammered harder by the recession than was widely acknowledged. It will be interesting to follow the AJC’s work this week to see if the paper can dig deep into the obvious issues that lie ahead.