By Maria Saporta and Urvaksh Karkaria
Friday, March 26, 2010
If you go by the number of businesses relocating to the area, things are looking up for metro Atlanta.
For 2010, the Metro Atlanta Chamber set a goal of recruiting 50 new companies that would employ at least 5,000 well-paid employees.
If the current pace of activity continues, the chamber is on track to reach that goal.
“We have successfully recruited 11 new businesses to the Atlanta region, and those 11 companies are expected to create 1,600 jobs,” Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, reported at a board meeting March 18.
That’s just the results that are expected for the first quarter ending March 31. But the number of prospects also is increasing.
“We really have beefed up our external marketing and outreach programs to prospective companies,” Gant said. “Our pipeline of new prospects is ahead about 18 percent of where we were last year.”
Specifically, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, working with its economic development partners, had about 150 active prospects at the end of 2009.
“Since January, we’ve added another 90 prospects to that pipeline,” Gant said. “We have got a strong pipeline. About 30 to 35 of those have short-listed Atlanta on their final-decision list.”
The uptick in deal flow can also be seen in one of the region’s fastest-growing counties — Gwinnett.
The Gwinnett Chamber is juggling nearly 50 active economic development projects.
The chamber, which began proactively marketing the region in 2007, saw a 40 percent increase in deal activity last year compared with the prior year, said Nick Masino, vice president of economic development at the Gwinnett Chamber.
The Gwinnett Chamber has identified five focus industries — technology/IT; advanced communications; health care/life sciences; logistics; and corporate relocations — all of which have continued to grow during the recession.
Metro Atlanta has done “above average” in winning business from corporate consolidations, Masino said.
“We get a lot of consolidations from the Northeast, Midwest and our neighbors along Interstate 85 like Charlotte and Raleigh,” he said. “Companies consolidate to their Atlanta offices because of our very inexpensive cost of doing business, our incredible transportation [infrastructure] opportunities, and our superior workforce.”
Economic development officials have seen strong job and investment growth statewide, too.
The number of jobs created in the state is up 30 percent over the same period a year ago. Investment made by new and existing businesses in Georgia, meanwhile, is up 80 percent during that period.
“Our pipeline — the number of people knocking on our door — is quite full right now,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
The increased activity is being driven by business cycles, Stewart said.
“Businesses now feel like we’ve reached the bottom — or very near the bottom,” he said. “It’s time to begin to put assets in the ground to produce goods and services now, so you take advantage of the complete business cycle.”
Stewart expects to see deal flow remain strong for a least the next two years.
“There is a pent-up demand for our products to be produced in the United States,” he said. “We’re going to see some more ‘back-shoring’ that’s going to occur as relates to services [and products].”
The Gwinett Chamber’s Masino is cautiously optimistic about 2010. While the technology, life sciences and logistics sectors will continue to grow in 2010, he said, economic growth will be tempered by the commercial real estate downturn and reduced spending from financially hamstrung state and local governments.
Gant said the Metro Atlanta Chamber still expects 2010 to be “a very trying year” as the country slowly comes out of recession.
“But we are encouraged by the uptick in prospect activity,” he said. “We are ahead of where we were last year so that’s good news. We hope that bodes well in terms of new company announcements and job creation in the region for the rest of the year.”
Just to be sure it is doing all it can, Gant said the Metro Atlanta Chamber is planning to go on another 30 to 35 business recruitment and marketing trips during 2010.