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Research Team Members


Thomas J. Cunningham

Chief Economist

Thomas J. Cunningham is Senior Vice President and the Chief Economist for the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC). Tom joined the MAC in July 2015 following a 30-year career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He is a specialist in open economy macroeconomic policy and regional analysis. At the MAC, he manages an internal team that supports the research and advocacy roles of the economic development and public policy departments.  

After starting his career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta as an economist in the Macropolicy group, Tom served at various times as associate director of research, interim director of research, vice president for the Regional group where he was also responsible for the Latin American group, and acting head of the Finance group. He served on the Bank's Personnel, Information Technology, and Risk Management Committees and as a member of the Federal Reserve System's Information Security Group and Technology Services Council. He also was the acting director of, and helped establish, the Bank's Center for Real Estate Analytics. When Dr. Cunningham retired from the Fed, his title was Vice President, Senior Economist and Regional Executive.

A native of Reedley, California, he received a bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, in economics from California State University, Fresno. He earned a master's degree, a master of philosophy, and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University. He previously worked as an economics instructor at Barnard College at Columbia University and as an adjunct instructor at Iona College, Agnes Scott College, and Emory University. He attended the executive development program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and is a member of Leadership Atlanta’s class of 2018. He is a board member of Atlanta’s Neighborhood Nexus as well as the Georgia Intellectual Property Alliance. Dr. Cunningham has published numerous professional articles and is a member of the American Economic Association, the Western Economic Association, and the Southern Economic Association.


Kelly Sydney

Vice President, Research

Kelly Sydney is Vice President, Economic Research for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. She joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) in 2008 to lead the research team. In this capacity, she oversees the information and research needs of MAC divisions, including Economic Development, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and Communications. Kelly is responsible for collecting and analyzing local data, producing metro Atlanta research documents, and assisting companies who are actively evaluating metro Atlanta as a place to establish a new location or expand an existing location. She serves as a resource for the business community, including MAC investors and regional partners.

Kelly founded the Metro Atlanta Economic Development Research Council in 2012, with the purpose of connecting experienced, local research professionals to elevate research support for creating jobs and investment within metro Atlanta. She is also connected to research professionals throughout the country as a member of The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

Kelly came to MAC with nine years of metro Atlanta research and commercial real estate experience, providing services to clients including custom research, market analysis, marketing, presentation development and strategic planning. Her management roles included Client Services Manager for Grubb & Ellis and Regional Client Services Manager for Newmark, following research analyst positions for Studley, Inc. and Carter & Associates.

A native Atlantan, Kelly is a cum laude graduate of Furman University (Greenville, SC) with Bachelor of Science degrees in Business Administration and Spanish. 


Madi Shields

Research Analyst

Madi Shields joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2017 as a Research Analyst in the Economic Research group. As an analyst, Madi conducts demographic, economic, and GIS data analysis for the Atlanta metropolitan area. She works with the research team to provide information for MAC divisions, research documents, and to companies evaluating the Atlanta area for a new location or expansion.

Madi specializes in demographic and economic development research and analysis, geographic information systems, as well as data collection, management, and visualization. She previously worked as a project manager associate where she consulted with cities and counties in Georgia on economic development studies. Madi has also worked with several organizations to develop metro Atlanta’s startup ecosystem.

Madi holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Health from Indiana University and a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Georgia Tech where she concentrated in Economic Development. 

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