By David Pendered
Atlanta’s development authority, Invest Atlanta, is open for business in new office space that offers a panoramic view of the city and region.
Invest Atlanta now fills the 29th floor of the Georgia-Pacific Center. The modern architecture is a far cry from the exposed brick-and-beam look of the old space, so popular among start-ups at the end of the 20th century.
The new space is all about gleaming fixtures and views that intend to convey a confident message about Atlanta’s future. The look speaks to the agency’s renewed focus on creating jobs, as opposed to incentivizing development.
“This gives us a home field advantage,” Invest Atlanta CEO Brian McGowan said in December, at the first meeting of Invest Atlanta’s board in its new room.
McGowan attributed the quote to Scott Taylor, president of Carter. McGowan also commended Taylor and a team of businesses that helped Invest Atlanta reshape its physical space to match its mission of job creation.
McGowan clearly communicated Taylor’s prominence in the agency’s relocation from Underground Atlanta to a premier office tower in the heart of Atlanta’s central business district.
“The first person I reached out to was Scott Taylor,” McGowan said. “He pulled together that team. Scott got on the phone and used his connections to push these donations, to push the discount, advising, and believing in us.
“I cannot thank you enough — this move would not have been possible without you,” McGowan said to Taylor, who sat in the audience and quietly acknowledged the recognition.
Invest Atlanta’s board of directors approved a 13-year, $5.7 million lease for the space. The lease is three times the $1.9 million that Invest Atlanta would have paid to stay at Underground Atlanta, according to a fact sheet issued by Invest Atlanta.
The new office space coincides with Invest Atlanta’s renewed attention to job creation.
Consider the agency’s recent support for the relocation of Carter’s Inc. from Shelton, Ct. to Buckhead. Strings were attached to the money.
Invest Atlanta didn’t provide a boatload of incentives – just a $350,000 grant to help pay for IT-related costs. The company is to receive $30 million in assistance to help defray relocation costs, according to an Invest Atlanta fact sheet.
To win the grant from Invest Atlanta, Carter’s had to agree to clawback provisions. Carter’s must repay some of the money if the company fails to fulfill its promise to create 200 jobs – 70 percent of them within three years. The jobs must be at least 35 hours a week and pay wages and benefits at least the same as those now paid by the region’s IT companies.
Invest Atlanta is not the only governmental development agency that has refreshed its image by relocating to a skyscraper.
The counterpart in Ohio, JobsOhio, relocated a year ago to a high-rise office building in Columbus. The move underscored the intention of Republican Gov. John Kasich to turn the tide of economic decay by focusing on job creation.
Fortune magazine was among the publications that touted Kasich’s new approach, as well as his hiring of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mark Kvamme to head the agency.
The idea was to jump-start industries that would bring jobs to the state – such as bio-health and polymers, while supporting the job-creating efforts is existing Ohio stalwarts – such as autos and manufacturing.
The program hit a bump in September, when the Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling that curbed JobsOhio. Kvamme announced his resignation the next week.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against a request by the governor to fast-track a controversial way to fund JobsOhio. Kasich wanted to use profits from the state-operated liquor sales business. Without the proceeds, JobsOhio will continue to operate on a shoestring.
Invest Atlanta has no such intentions of expanding its resources beyond the pool established in 1997. That’s the year former Mayor Bill Campbell created the Atlanta Development Authority through the consolidation of various development entities. The ADA, and now Invest Atlanta, is chaired by the Atlanta mayor.
Invest Atlanta does have intentions to promote the city. It’s launched initiatives to help pay for improving the efficiency of downtown office buildings and continues to court investors whose businesses would create jobs throughout Atlanta.
Through November, Invest Atlanta had helped create 1,600 jobs in the city, according to Bill Cronin, the agency’s vice president of economic development. The agency had closed 24 deals in 2012 through November, which was a greater number than the 20 that were the goal, he said.
McGowan said the cost of renovating the 29th floor of Georgia-Pacific Center to meet the agency’s need was about $350,000.
“We designed the space, we believe it is efficient,” McGowan said. “And it is very becoming of a global city. We benchmarked our space and it is comparable.
“This space will be able to showcase the city as we try to invest in jobs.”