The Atlanta metro area is home to a growing number of tech startups, and local entrepreneurs point to the high quality of life and favorable business climate as big reasons for locating in the region. Whether it’s the low cost of living, a global airport hub, angel investor tax credits or access to university and incubator assistance, new tech companies are finding more reasons to open their doors in the Peach State.
According to a 2012 study by the Kauffman Foundation, Georgia ranked second in the nation for states with the largest growth in entrepreneurial activity over the past decade. And a large number of startups created there are in the tech space, says Tino Mantella, president and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia. “You have a young urban professional community building here — an ecosystem,” he says. The growth is not only in Atlanta’s downtown, Mantella adds, but also in the surrounding areas of Alpharetta, Columbus, Duluth, Roswell and Sandy Springs.
Benn Konsynski, professor of information systems and operations management at Emory University, explains that the region has a “great climate for idea development and an open and friendly community for entrepreneurs. Many successful startups have grown with funding resources from both the West and East Coast.”
He also points to the many incubators in the state as a big reason for the growth in tech startups. Georgia Tech alone supports a number of incubators, including Flashpoint@Georgia Tech and the Advanced Technology Development Center. “The Atlanta area is an open community for discussion and support,” says Konsynski.
A concentration of research and tech universities is also creating a crop of homegrown tech workers, says Larry Mieldezis, chief operating officer for Liaison Technologies. That’s a good thing, given the area’s demand. Today, the state is the eighth-largest IT employment cluster in the nation, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, with 263,000 workers.
Liaison Technologies, for one, is currently hiring, says Mieldezis. “We’re recruiting for about 20 open spots in software development and engineering, as well as project management and business analytics as it’s related to Big Data.” Recruiting in the Atlanta area is strong, which bodes well for job candidates, he says. “It’s a very competitive market, and it forces tech companies to create an environment where young innovators can get what they need.”
Companies like AirWatch and Silverpop are also actively recruiting, says Konsynski. Mantella adds that Cardlytics, athenahealth and Manhattan Associates are also in hiring mode. AirWatch is expected to add up to about 800 new jobs in the next three years. And according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, there is large scale hiring at CloudSherpas, Elavon, Infosys, Rockfish, Nuesoft Technologies, and a number of other tech companies in and around the Atlanta area.
The Biggest Sectors
Metro Atlanta is home base to some of the nation’s top health IT and financial tech companies, including McKesson Technology Solutions, MedAssets, NCR and First Data. The region also has a growing number of digital media, interactive marketing, information security and data center operations, says Mantella. Besides tech stalwarts and startups, companies outside the tech space are tapping into local know-how to expand their IT operations.
For example, General Motors opened an Information Technology Innovation Center in Roswell in March. The automaker announced it would hire about 1,000 new employees, including software developers, project managers, database experts, business analysts and other IT professionals over the next three to five years. In August, Ernst & Young opened a global IT center in Alpharetta and expects to add 400 jobs in the area during the next five years. Those will include project managers, business analysts, software architects, software developers and system analysts.
IT Skills in Need
What IT skills are most needed? According to the Technology Association of Georgia, the top tech skills in demand are SQL, Windows OS, Java, business analysis, Oracle DBMS, Microsoft SQL server, Unix, C++/VC++, Linux, SAP, HTML, large system technologies, XML, information assurance and virtualization technology. Konsynski adds, “Entrepreneurs are constantly in need of reliable tech folks (mobile, cloud and integration skills), analytics skills on data access and predictive analytics, and many are in need of experienced and reliable business development folks that can help the business grow from seed.”