Invest Atlanta hoping to attract energy of young entrepreneurs to town

By Saba Long

For the past few years, many corporate and city leaders believed the Atlanta Development Authority (ADA), headquartered in a drab brick building, did not properly reflect the energy of the city.

What the research and development team is to a company, a development authority is to a city or state.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is pushing the city to sharpen its competitive edge, starting with the rebranding of the Atlanta Development Authority, now known as Invest Atlanta.

Situated on the 29th floor of the downtown Georgia-Pacific building are the new offices for the economic development authority. Walking off the elevator and into the lobby, the sleek design and large windows that showcase views as a far north as Buckhead and as far east as Stone Mountain, the message is clear — Invest Atlanta is focused on the future of the city.

Through smart risk taking, the city’s development arm is on a mission of retention, expansion and creation — of businesses and communities.

A former Californian, Dr. Eloisa Klementich serves as the agency’s director of business development. Hanging in her office are pictures from her time working in then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and paraphernalia from her stint in the White House. In just 30 minutes of conversation, it is clear that she “gets it”.

Today’s economic development investments are not for the retiring banker or the senior partner at a silk-stocking law firm. Recruiting established companies and burgeoning entrepreneurs to Atlanta helps the city attract and retain Generations Y and Z — the young creative class.

As a young entrepreneur, Klementich notes: “Invest Atlanta is a resource, and as you grow your business, you can plug in at the different stages of the company’s growth. If you are looking for space, we can help you find space. If your business wants to take on debt — rather than give up equity — we can be a resource to help you retain control of your startup.”

According to the Kauffman Foundation, all net new jobs are coming from startups. Often times, these new companies are created by young risk takers.

Given the average lifecycle for a business is seven years, this group of new firms has the opportunity to shape Atlanta. Not only will they influence job creation, they will also handpick the services rendered here across a wide variety of industries including restaurants and hospitality, transportation and entertainment.

“The more diversified and resilient your economy is, the stronger the government is. It is a no-brainer for us to provide services for the creative class, “ says Klementich. “Not only must we fulfill the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but we must also provide a “quality of place. Imagine if we were able to provide broadband Internet along the BeltLine or a fleet of driverless cars. As the economic development arm of the city, we have to push for innovation to keep young people here.”

This group is very digitally focused when tapping into their resources and interactions with others. While they may be less reliant on government and more on their personal networks, there is room for collaboration.

Invest Atlanta is considering inserting itself into the entrepreneurship ecosystem by volunteering to be the “test taster” for the startup community.

Perhaps you have a widget or software and are in need of validators to lend their credibility to your company. Under this pilot program, your company would be given the opportunity to render your services to the city as a short-term quality assurance program.

If you are a startup newbie or someone who has gone a few rounds in the entrepreneurship ring, Invest Atlanta has one request of you — “help us help you.”

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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