By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2019 Issue
Business Facilities: The Atlanta metro area has become a thriving high-tech hub. What are the key factors that make Atlanta so attractive to the tech sector?
Eloisa Klementich: Technology companies are drawn to Atlanta for its fast-growing pool of tech talent, a lower cost of doing business and living compared to other major markets, and the global connectivity provided through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s most traveled airport. Atlanta is seeing increased venture capital investment with area startups raising about $1.15 billion last year, a record according to PitchBook. Metro Atlanta is also home to nearly 65 corporate innovation centers, incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces. To foster a thriving tech sector, Invest Atlanta and the City of Atlanta offer innovation programs such as Students2Startups, the Atlanta International Startup Exchange, and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI).
BF: Are higher education resources working with businesses in Atlanta to ensure that local graduates will have the STEM skills needed for 21st-century jobs?
EK: The metro Atlanta region is home to more than 70 higher education institutions led by Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State, the Atlanta University Center colleges and other institutions. According to WalletHub, the region is ranked 7th overall for STEM professionals, and 2nd in terms of quality of engineering universities. The same ranking put Atlanta at the top for job openings for STEM graduates per capita. Georgia Tech is a world-renowned engineering institution and the top producer of engineering PhDs in the country. It has more graduate engineering students than MIT, Harvard, and Stanford combined, which appeals to local companies looking to grow by acquiring top talent.
BF: Do you expect Atlanta to be a major player in the emerging cyber security sector?
EK: Atlanta, along with the entire state of Georgia, is already a major player in cyber security. Georgia has more than 115 information security companies generating more than $4.7 billion in annual revenue, which represents 25 percent of the global security revenue market share. The state’s companies employ more than 10,000 network and computer system engineers. Atlanta-based pioneers like Ionic Security, Pindrop Security, NexDefense, and Bastille Networks are making a mark in the cyber security industry. In addition, the U.S. Army has its Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon and the NSA/CSS Georgia Cryptologic Center is located a short drive away from Atlanta near Augusta.
BF: Are you targeting specific industries for Atlanta’s new federally designated Opportunity Zone?
EK: There are 26 qualified Opportunity Zones in the City of Atlanta, primarily located in the south and southwest areas of the city. This is the first new federal incentive for community development in 15 years with the potential to drive millions of dollars in private investment to address affordable housing, living-wage job creation, neighborhood reinvestment and other priorities economic development priorities. Invest Atlanta has been a first mover in the Opportunity Zones program and will play a lead role in directing funds to targeted business and real-estate projects in Atlanta. Invest Atlanta has undertaken several outreach initiatives to steer investment dollars to projects and businesses that support the City’s economic and community development goals, including hosting workshops and opening an investor registry to better understand the types of projects of interest to businesses and investors and to facilitate matchmaking. We are expanding these efforts going forward to maximize the role Opportunity Zones can play in our economic development strategies.
BF: Norfolk Southern recently announce it is relocating its headquarters to Atlanta. Is Atlanta well positioned as a leading logistics hub?
EK: With the world’s most traveled airport, a strong and diverse base of logistics companies and direct access to the Port of Savannah, Atlanta is a major logistics center. The estimated $811 million economic impact Norfolk Southern will bring to our city will create and retain jobs, attract investment and strengthen our position as a destination for logistics business. Invest Atlanta collaborated with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Georgia Power to assist with the project.