Technology, talent, and transportation are the “three T’s” likely to drive the future of north Fulton, a bustling area along the GA 400 corridor.

Already home to some of the most coveted ZIP codes in metro Atlanta, north Fulton is bracing for another wave of residential and business growth – with good reason. Bethany Usry, VP of Economic & Talent Development for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce (GNFCC), discussed the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

What’s the outlook for greater North Fulton? Where do you see economic development in greater North Fulton County heading in the next 5-10 years?

The outlook for North Fulton is very bright. The Atlanta Regional Commission projects that the corridor extending along Georgia 400 will record employment growth of 290,028 jobs and a population surge of 569,223 people by 2040. Much of the job growth is projected in the healthcare and technology industries, so I think that our economic development efforts will continue to focus on those two sectors for the next 5-10 years.

What are some of the biggest opportunities or projects/initiatives that may impact economic development in greater north Fulton County?

One of the largest projects that will impact economic development in North Fulton is the Governor’s announcement that the state will spend $100 million to build a bus-rapid transit line on GA 400 north of I-285 along toll lanes that are already planned. Transit and talent are now the two most important factors in site location decisions, so this announcement will help North Fulton continue to attract large project locations.

Employers across metro Atlanta and nationally are often having trouble finding qualified workers for open positions. What is the GNFCC doing to address this issue?

In 2015, the GNFCC created the Talent Coalition for the purpose of bringing together education and business leaders to develop workforce strategies that promote healthy progress. The community houses approximately 900 technology and 1,400 health services facilities, all of which are demanding talent.

Given this landscape, we have identified the top five jobs in each industry – technology and healthcare – that are in the highest demand and the most difficult to fill with talent. We have three work groups that are focused on healthcare, technology, and K-12 education. Some early successes include:

  • A nursing articulation agreement between Gwinnett Technical College and Georgia State University that helps students make a smooth transition from one institution to another by minimizing duplication of coursework.
  • Data provided by the Talent Coalition inspired a new 250,000-square foot, STEM-focused high school currently under construction on the former Milton High School campus that will be completed and ready for enrollment in the fall of 2020. The school will have two primary fields of instruction: healthcare and information technology.
  • Our first annual Technology Summit was held in March 2018, focusing on the topic of cybersecurity. The summit included an opportunity for the 150 attendees to engage with high school and college students to solve a cyber challenge.

What are some of the challenges facing greater North Fulton County?

One of our primary challenges is the lack of large blocks of available commercial office space. We’re currently sitting at an 11.2% vacancy rate. However, there are several new developments proposed and under construction that will answer this challenge in the coming months. Another one of our challenges is attainable housing for all segments of our workforce – especially healthcare and technology workers.

What are some notable companies or organizations that have located or expanded in greater North Fulton County in the past 6-12 months?

Some of the most notable announcements so far in 2018 are Delta Dental with 200 to 300 positions, Kamstrup water meters with 52 jobs, GPS Trackit software product development with 40 jobs, and Elavon, a payment processing company, with 180 jobs.

What’s your take on the overall economy of greater North Fulton and how does the GNFCC fit into the regional picture?

The overall economy of North Fulton is very healthy. GNFCC is a vital part of the regional picture as it relates to the healthcare and technology industries. Maps of the Health IT and financial tech sectors produced by the Technology Association of Georgia illustrate that there are hundreds of these companies that are currently based here or have offices in north Fulton.

Lyle Harris is a freelance writer from DeKalb County

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.