On March 3, CREW Atlanta hosted a panel discussion on Atlanta’s growing position as a high-tech hub. Four speakers – Bob Gargosh, senior sales executive at QTS; Tino Mantella, President of Technology Association of Georgia (TAG); Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO of Invest Atlanta; and Wendy McArthur, member, JLL’s Data Center Solutions Group – discussed factors driving this growth and ways the city is expanding its technology industry.
Georgia is already a top state for Financial Technology, or ‘FinTech’ – a growing sector of companies involved in payment processing, financial management technologies, data-based reward programs and more. An impressive 70% of all payments processed in the US are processed through a Georgia-based FinTech company, Mantella asserted.
Atlanta’s low cost of living and high quality of life have always appealed to employers across all industries. More recently, Atlanta has crafted what Mantella calls a “cool factor” list, describing new amenities that are attractive to well-educated, millennial employees. A strong talent pool is a necessary component for businesses competing to fill new positions and of prime interest to companies looking to relocate. Work-live-play neighborhoods such as the Beltline, Avalon and Ponce City Market have the “cool factor” and are becoming hubs for technology employees and employers.
Ponce City Market houses offices for several high-tech companies including Twitter, MailChimp, and Cardlytics. Microsoft is rumored to be anchoring a new office development at Avalon in Alpharetta. Besides offering a prime location to employees, technology companies are creating enticing workplaces by implementing virtual offices, creating flexible schedules and focusing on diversity.
In order to keep up with the evolving demand for technology talent, Atlanta will need to develop better educational opportunities and resources. It is essential for Georgia to improve K-12 school systems and develop strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program offerings for students. Local companies such as SecureWorks are also investing in training existing employees on high-tech skills to remain competitive.
Connectivity and Accessibility
Atlanta is fortunate to have a data highway that comes together downtown. The metro area already has fiber connectivity from many different providers, so businesses have numerous choices for data and bandwidth. However, Google Fiber’s plans to expand into Atlanta have caused several providers to offer lower cost options with increased bandwidth.
The city is also seeing growth in data centers because its location meets the must-have criteria for a mission-critical facility: climate, connectivity, and power. The climate is friendly with limited threat of earthquakes or tornadoes, and power is relatively cheap with good infrastructure, including dual feeds, underground utilities, etc. Subsequently, there are currently 30 colocation facilities in metro Atlanta.
According to McArthur, close proximity to data centers is attractive to businesses. Companies can move equipment out of their office space and into a colocation facility with cloud access. Mantella added that TAG is working to create a tax credit program to bring in even more mission-critical facilities.
What else are companies looking for?
Besides a robust workforce and connectivity, Georgia offers a very business-friendly environment with relatively low government regulations and competitive tax credit programs. Georgia is aggressive with tax incentives at both the state and city level, although many incentives are tied to specific locations. Other benefits include proximity and access to innovation centers and Georgia Tech.
Accessibility is also key to competing as a high-tech hub. Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the busiest airport in the world, providing easy transportation in and out of the city. Klementich pointed out that Invest Atlanta is looking at ways to increase transportation connectivity with MARTA.
Silicon Valley is home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations and still receives the lion’s share of venture capital funding. But, some California companies are leaving because the demand for tech talent is so high and taxes are stifling, as is regulation. Atlanta now has the infrastructure, connectivity and amenities in place to flourish as the next high-tech destination for these companies.