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July 13, 2012 - A relatively recently formed group is blending macro and micro approaches in order to foster economic development in and around metro Atlanta’s upper Georgia 400 corridor.
An economic development initiative of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Progress Partners of North Fulton Atlanta works to position this area as the first choice for a national or international company seeking to establish, relocate or remain in metro Atlanta.
It promotes North Fulton as a whole through activities aimed at attracting new businesses and supporting existing ones.
The group also serves as a single source for information about Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park, Roswell and Sandy Springs, as well as providing specific economic development services to several of these cities.
The chamber launched this initiative in early 2011, according to Progress Partners Executive Director Al Nash.
“We had a market study done, and talked with the cities about what they felt were the assets and the impediments to their growth,” Nash said. “And what we came to realize is that we had six very distinct cities, and a unique opportunity for them to utilize the North Fulton brand in recruiting new businesses and retaining existing ones.”
Elements of the North Fulton “brand” that differentiate it — and the six cities — from other portions of the metro area include a huge health-care industry presence, exemplified by the region’s five hospitals (Northside, St. Joseph’s, Emory Johns Creek, North Fulton, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta).
These are accompanied by some 5,100 doctors in this portion of the county, according to Nash, as well as a burgeoning health-care services sector that includes companies such as contact lens manufacturer Ciba Vision; health-care supply-chain revenue cycle management provider MedAssets Inc.; and health-care information technology provider McKesson Corp.
North Fulton is also known for being a center for mission-critical data centers, with more than 30 of these centers now taking advantage of the region’s extensive, concrete-encased fiber-optic telecommunications infrastructure and super-reliable power grid.
The area is also home to financial services and insurance firms, such as State Farm and ADP, that occupy some 2 million to 3 million square feet of office space, according to Nash. North Fulton is also home to corporate headquarters for First Data Corp., United Parcel Service Inc. and Newell Rubbermaid Inc.; and facilities for telecommunications giants AT&T Inc. and Verizon.
All this is layered on top of North Fulton’s top-notch school system, according to Nash, as well as quality-of-life factors that include attractions such as numerous golf courses, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park.
Out in the field
Fueled by an annual budget of about $250,000 that comes from North Fulton cities and a number of chamber members, Progress Partners expends much of its efforts working with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, utilities, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, relocation consultants, and other players in the economic development business in educating prospective major new businesses about relocating to/expanding in North Fulton, as well as connecting them to officials at the local/municipal level.
The group has worked on several such projects, including expansions by ADP and CSI Labs. In Johns Creek, projects Progress Partners have been involved in include expansions of State Farm’s Southern regional headquarters and advanced manufacturing at the Ciba Vision campus, according to Mike Bodker, mayor of the city of Johns Creek.
“Progress Partners is doing a very good job of promoting North Fulton,” Bodker said. “They are helping raise awareness of what North Fulton has to offer businesses in terms of great location and quality of life. We have a lot to offer, and Progress Partners is helping to get the word out.”
The group also contracts with individual North Fulton cities to provide specific economic development services that augment or complement their existing programs.
It recently entered into an agreement with Milton to aid efforts to recruit small businesses, including startup tech companies and those related to horse or equestrian activities, according to Progress Partners Director of Economic Development Sarah LaDart. As a result of agreements with Alpharetta and Roswell, Progress Partners will supplement existing economic development operations by focusing on marketing these cities to larger companies.
The group is well-liked by the cities it serves.
“Progress Partners enhances economic development efforts in North Fulton, Sandy Springs and the rest of the Georgia 400 corridor that has been such an engine of wealth production for so many years,” said Eva Galambos, mayor of the city of Sandy Springs, where recent economic development news includes business consultant and technology staffing firm Genesis10’s decision to open a center.
Progress Partners plays a vital role in attracting new businesses, according to Steve Stroud, executive director of the Roswell Business Alliance, a new, public-private partnership that promotes business and economic development within the city of Roswell.
“You have to have an organization with a regional approach that works for the good of the entire area,” Stroud said. “And Progress Partners helps us reach out in bringing new businesses to North Fulton.”
Atlanta Business Chronicle by Martin Sinderman, Contributing writer
Date: Friday, July 13, 2012, 6:00am EDT
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