On Metro Atlanta’s Innovative and Diverse Technology Ecosystem
By Gregg Simon, vice president of economic development, Metro Atlanta Chamber
I moved from Boston to Atlanta in 2006 as an economic developer with over a decade of experience in New York and Boston. I had a keen interest in technology-related economic development, and I wasn’t sure what to expect in metro Atlanta. I knew that the region was known as a rapidly growing metro with a large, well-connected airport, lots of corporate headquarters and a reasonable cost of living and doing business.
Upon arriving, I became acquainted with Tech Square in Midtown on the campus of Georgia Tech. Announced for development in 2000, this Georgia Tech-driven development created a new district for Atlanta that offered the opportunity to bring together students, faculty, startups and big brands for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. There are over 25 corporate innovation centers located in this district, including AT&T Foundry, Boeing, Delta, NCR and Siemens. Georgia Tech’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), was founded in 1980 and is located in Tech Square. More than 170 businesses have graduated from this program and have raised over $12 billion. What began with modestly sized innovation centers ranging from 10 to 50 employees has now attracted the likes of Honeywell employing 800, Anthem employing 1,800 and NCR’s global headquarters employing thousands. Georgia Tech’s newest Tech Square addition, CODA, is a 645,000 square feet building is home to firms like Dematic, thyssenkrupp, Keysight and co-working leader WeWork.
Tech Square’s success has led to the emergence of a variety of tech sub-markets in metro Atlanta, such as nearby Ponce City Market and 725 Ponce which are home to Mailchimp, Cardlytics and BlackRock’s new 1,000 person Innovation Hub. In Buckhead on the north side of the City of Atlanta, entrepreneur David Cummings created Atlanta Tech Village – a thriving hub of tech startup activity that launched companies like Bitpay and Salesloft. The emergence of Atlanta Tech Village has drawn tech tenants to Buckhead like Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, SAP, Marketo Software and GE Digital.
Suburban markets have also enjoyed this tech boom, including northwest of Atlanta in Cobb County around the Battery – home to Comcast’s accelerator known as the Farm, and thyssenkrupp’s new 40-story elevator test tower, currently under construction. The communities of North Fulton County have long been known as technology centers with tenants like Microsoft, Verizon, Philips and Siemens. Our largest office sub-market, Central Perimeter, is home to tech tenants including Cox, Airwatch by VMWare, IBM, and Oracle. Northeast into Gwinnett County, the City of Peachtree Corners has created a Curiosity Lab that serves as a Smart City and intelligent mobility test bed.
The emergence of film and television production, as a result of our 30% entertainment tax credit that was established in 2006, has brought an entire creative class to Atlanta. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, our state was home to 455 film and tv productions in 2018, representing a $2.7 billion direct investment in Georgia.
The growth of this tech development is fueled by over 50 colleges and universities in metro Atlanta with close to 300,000 enrolled students. Within a 250-mile radius of Atlanta, there are almost two million enrolled students that tend to move to Atlanta for jobs upon graduation. Our region is also the fourth fastest growing region in the U.S. based on population growth. Our workforce is young, educated and diverse. This allows businesses in metro Atlanta to continue to recruit talent.
Atlanta has always led the nation in careers, community and culture, and these last 15 years have brought a technology revolution to metro Atlanta’s economy that is reflected in the growing number of technology firms in our region. There is no better time to learn more about the city’s engagement with tech.