Atlanta’s Lustre

Moderated by Rick Badie

Two years ago, a noted economist wondered in print if Atlanta was another Detroit, a place where “the American dream seems to be dying, where the children of the poor have great difficulty climbing the economic ladder.” Earlier this year, AJC reporters Dan Chapman, Jeff Ernsthausen and Michael Kanell compared Atlanta to Charlotte and the Dallas-Fort Worth market in a series of articles that found our city didn’t measure up so well. Today’s writers, though, say our major hub has challenges but suggest the good outweighs the bad.

Atlanta: The “Silicon Peach”

By Julie Miller-Phipps

I spent most of my adult life in Orange County in southern California. My husband and I raised our daughter there, and that’s where I built my career. We were well-connected with lots of family and friends. But last fall, I was offered an opportunity to move to Atlanta to lead the Georgia operations for Kaiser Permanente, the company I’ve worked with for more than 35 years.

As we were considering the move to Atlanta, Kaiser Permanente was making a similar decision. Our national information technology team was exploring locations for a significant expansion — one that would bring nearly 1,000 jobs to a new city. They had gone through an exhaustive process and had narrowed the choices to a handful of areas, including Atlanta. They were looking for a location that was business friendly and would have a healthy supply of technology-savvy job candidates.

Just four months into my new job, I had the pleasure of standing next to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Invest Atlanta, state and local representatives and other KP officials to help deliver the good news that our IT team had chosen Atlanta as the best site.

Kaiser Permanente has signed the lease at Pershing Point Plaza in Midtown. The campus is being established and the hiring process, which will extend over the next few years, will begin in early 2016.

This is the second time our city proved to be the right choice for Kaiser Permanente. In 1985, when we wanted to expand to the East Coast, Atlanta was an obvious decision for many of the same reasons that still make it attractive. Among those are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and an abundance of highly respected colleges and universities.

Today, Georgia is increasingly known as the “Silicon Peach.” It’s developing into a technology hub and is one of the fastest-growing cities for health tech jobs. It has the fourth-largest concentration of IT jobs in the U.S. and is the sixth-fastest growing city for IT jobs, with many of those in the health care sector.

Metro Atlanta also is the home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world’s leading authority in disease eradication and prevention; the Emory and Morehouse schools of medicine, and the American Cancer Society, to name a few institutions. It’s a growing health care hub and a place Kaiser Permanente wants to be.

There are many other reasons Kaiser Permanente found Atlanta attractive: an affordable cost of living, reasonably priced housing options and superb weather.

Personally speaking, Atlanta offers a great quality of life. It is a vibrant city with many amenities. My husband and I love eating out, and we’ve already immersed ourselves in Atlanta’s diverse restaurant scene. There’s access to recreation areas, cultural and sports events and the Atlanta Beltline. I’ve also grown particularly fond of MARTA and ride it as often as I can.

Like all major metropolitan areas, Atlanta has its challenges. There’s much to be done, and there is a will to do it. As a newcomer, I’ve observed an optimistic spirit and a desire to move our community forward. At Kaiser Permanente, we are taking advantage of what’s great about Atlanta now and want to do our part to help make it even better in the future.

Julie Miller-Phipps is president of the Kaiser Permanente of Georgia.

Atlanta hits high notes

By Nick Juliano

I was born and raised in Atlanta, the son of small-business owners. I chose to stay in Atlanta to study at Emory University, an Atlanta native surrounded by students drawn to our campus from across the world. Like many young people after college, I could have chosen to leave town and move anywhere. I didn’t do that. Instead of packing my bags and heading for the door, I decided to stay. I chose Atlanta.

Atlanta has succeeded because it is a city that says “yes” to progress and embraces opportunity. I was 10 years old when I sat in the Georgia Dome for the Olympics, and in my lifetime, I have seen this city undergo a transformation that still stuns me with each glance of the skyline.

When I graduated college in 2009, I saw a city to which people from across the country were bringing their immense talents. Nightlife was exploding, nationally recognized chefs were launching restaurants across the city and the Beltline, perhaps the most exciting transportation and urban redevelopment project in the country, was proving naysayers and skeptics wrong as its first trails opened for public use.

My college friends were fighting to stay in town, and young people from the suburbs were flocking into the city’s neighborhoods. I found myself spending time in Piedmont Park with the Atlanta Sports and Social Club, attending gallery openings in Castleberry Hill, and marching late into the night with thousands of my neighbors beneath the glow of the Beltline lantern parade.

In short, the old critique of Atlanta as a city of transplants without city spirit was being undone. The Atlanta of the 2010s was emerging.

Young people need jobs if they are to stay in a city, and despite the traffic delays, I was happy construction cranes crowded my commute. Some of my former peers found positions at Fortune 500 companies, while one launched a technology start-up from one of the city’s start-up incubators. In the years since I graduated, the tech sector has exploded. I have gotten to know former Silicon Valley types who have eagerly come to Atlanta, as well as filmmakers equally happy to have come to my home town.

Some statistics: 55 percent of millennials have started a business or desire to be an entrepreneur; 91 percent of us expect to stay in our current job for less than three years and are willing to move for another opportunity. Add to these figures the strong preference young people have to live in urban areas that offer social, cultural and recreational opportunities and access to public transit. We are a generation that seeks excitement and has high expectations. We see ourselves as leaders and innovators.

But Atlanta for me and so many of my friends today is hitting the right notes. I recently graduated from the LEAD Atlanta leadership program for young professionals and was struck by not just the ability of the city to attract young talent, but by the resolve of so many young people here to make this city an even better place to live by confronting its challenges and looking them square in the eye. Young Atlantans are committed to making this city the best place it can be through opportunity for all its residents.

Atlanta continues to inspire, and our leaders across the metro region need to work together to ensure this growth continues.

Young people support smart regional policies and cooperation that promotes the unity of the region we all call Atlanta. At the city, metro and state level, policies supporting a strong, cohesive Atlanta are the policies that will propel us forward, sharpen our global competitiveness and make the next generation proud to call this beautiful town home.

Nick Juliano is a public affairs consultant with Resolute Consulting.

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