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August 19, 2019

Economic Development Council Reviews Metro Atlanta’s Growth And Economic Outlook

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By Victoria Allen, Metro Atlanta Chamber

Metro Atlanta’s economy continues to grow with companies and talent choosing the region for a wide variety of expansion projects. Since July 2019, companies such as Stitch Fix, Edifecs and Bellhops have selected metro Atlanta for new offices. Combined, these projects added 1,300 positions in fields ranging from health IT to clothing distribution and technology. The Metro Atlanta Chamber recently convened an Economic Development Council panel discussion on this activity and outlook for the region for the rest of 2019. 

John O’Neill, president of the Southeast and Southcentral Regions for Cushman & Wakefield, moderated the discussion with panelists presenting insight on trends within construction, residential real estate, commercial real estate and economic outlook.

Featured panelists included: Metro Atlanta Chamber Chief Economist Tom Cunningham; Harry Norman Realtors Corporate and Consumer Business Services Senior Vice President and Managing Broker Karen McRae; Choate Construction Company Executive Chairman Millard Choate; and Cushman & Wakefield Americas Head of Occupier Research Vice President David Smith.

Cunningham kicked off the discussion with an overview of how economies interact, describing how metro Atlanta’s performance is tightly tied to the U.S economy. In the 1950s, the city had a similar economy to Birmingham, Alabama – by the 1960s, Atlanta was growing faster than the nation. 

“Atlanta is more representative of the U.S. than other cities, and Atlanta’s economic trends can be largely understood by focusing on the U.S. macroeconomy.” 

Cunningham stated companies settle in metro Atlanta because “diversity is thick and the probability of finding someone to solve your problems is high.”

McRae continued the discussion on companies’ relocation and home sales, again connecting current conditions to the region’s economic past. McRae explained Atlanta’s rebound from the 2008 recession – Atlanta experienced the longest expansion in the nation from June 2009 to July 2019. Although metro Atlanta continues to grow, McRae recalled an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stating that Atlanta is fourth in the nation for increasing prices of homes. While metro Atlanta attracts migration due to the region’s relative high quality of life, connectivity and education, McRae states housing affordability must stay where it is, compared to other cities, to continue growing and retaining talent.

McRae added that development outside of housing is linked to new trends of connectivity in the city, such as the Atlanta BeltLine, extending the Atlanta Streetcar and the expansion of Aerotropolis Atlanta. Connectivity is also spreading to the suburbs with projects like Alpha Loop in Alpharetta.

Choate highlighted the effects of the recession on metro Atlanta’s current state. During the recession, construction companies began losing talent. For Choate, labor is the singular driving force for the economy.

Smith explained trends within job growth, migration, commercial real estate and attracting young talent. Job growth has increased significantly in the South and West from 1992-2017. Additionally, population growth is higher in the Southeast compared to the U.S. The increase in metro Atlanta is partially due to international migrants moving to large cities, adding to the total net migration. 

Smith stated that trends in jobs are continuing to shift towards hiring tech and technical employees. Regarding commercial real estate, office spaces and industrial workplaces are becoming denser and more versatile. Companies are interested in fitting more people in spaces that provide flexibility and encourages coworking. Young talent is shifting from “work-life balance to work-life integration.” Smith depicts the integration as physical and digital merged together, with companies providing fitness, transportation and programming to accommodate work-life integration.

For more information on the MAC Economic Development Council, or if you have questions on how your organization can engage with MAC, please contact Josh Stephens.

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