Is Atlanta a Tech Boomtown, or Overhyped?
Atlanta’s boosters like to portray the city as a boomtown. And while the word “boomtown” inevitably draws accusations of hyperbole, there are a number of indicators that suggest a growing region, strong economy and dynamic tech sector. According the Census Bureau, the area’s population stands at nearly 5.8 million people, making it the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country. NerdWallet says it’s the most mobile-friendly city in the U.S., while the commercial real-estate company CBRE says it’s the sixth-best market for tech gender diversity—as well as the ninth-best market for overall tech talent. What’s driving all this? A combination of affordable cost-of-living, good weather and attractive lifestyles, all anchored by a strong economy. “Perhaps one of its strongest assets is found at the intersection of enterprise companies and startups,” said Grant Wainscott, senior director of technology ecosystem expansion for the city-based Metro Atlanta Chamber. Noting that the area is home to 25 of the Fortune 1000 and 220 of Inc.’s fastest-growing companies, he also called it “a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs and new businesses.” Of course, it’s Wainscott’s job to be upbeat about technology in Atlanta. But others in the tech community largely agree with him. Local enterprises—including Coca-Cola, UPS, SunTrust Banks and First Data Corporation—need technology support and innovative tools. Justin Laliberte, managing partner of the region’s IT search practice for Atlanta-based recruiter the Lucas Group, describes a startup scene “trying to create automation around business. Every workflow and process has a lot of disrupters.” A growing number of area companies have recognized that technology should be a part of their business, even if it’s not the business, Laliberte pointed out. As a result, there are an increasing number of new firms that serve these businesses’ tech needs. For example, young companies are developing shopping carts and other tools to help e-commerce brands, or supply-chain SaaS tools to support manufacturers. The “key drivers” in both startups and established companies are automation, data and digital innovation, Laliberte added.