Just a couple of decades ago, Alpharetta’s suburban landscape was small farms and cow pastures. That bucolic image transformed faster than Optimus Prime facing Megatron when 600 tech companies set up shop here and high-speed fiber-optic cables made data lightning fast. This rapid-fire growth fueled by reliable infrastructure has earned Alpharetta – “Technology City of the South” – national acclaim. A small city of 60,000 people, Alpharetta’s thriving technology culture was nationally recognized as the best small U.S. city to start a business by NerdWallet.
Seeing a need to bridge the multi-national tech conglomerates and startups, Mayor David Belle Isle started the nonprofit Alpharetta Technology Commission (ATC) in 2012. The first of its kind in Georgia, the ATC identifies and fosters key investment opportunities for technology companies and facilitates new business growth. It’s comprised of senior executives from Alpharetta’s major tech companies alongside representatives from smaller companies.
“One of the drivers for ATC is branding Alpharetta as a tech destination and keeping current members engaged. Since the city contains 35 percent of all of Georgia’s technology jobs, it is extremely important ATC strategically plans to stay ahead of the curve and remain a viable leader,” says Alpharetta Economic Development Director Peter Tokar.
One of the tools to do this is building an incubator, ATC’s Innovation Center. Serving as a startup consultant, the center is built specifically for tech startups with 24/7 member access to co-working space and innovative labs for experimenting. Mark Hubbard, ATC’s CEO calls the center, “The center of gravity for innovation.” Some of the primary goals are to connect technology companies to other emerging ones and build a technology job pipeline for recruiting and retaining top talent.
The 8,500-square-foot Innovation Center leases lockable office suites to startups and provides event space for organizations. Greater Alpharetta Tech Network (GATN), a nonprofit technology association, has weekly office hours at the center. GATN fosters growth within tech companies in Alpharetta and surrounding areas. “Organizations like GATN and others like Tech Talent South and Kids4Coding are pivotal to engage training and expand into the next generation,” Hubbard says.
Future programs include hosting coding classes for elementary students. “The center will provide an outlet for the second and third-generation entrepreneur,” says Tokar. Another initiative is to help mobile technology development. The 3,000-square-foot lab will be equipped with a variety of mobile devices and software that entrepreneurs can use to test out their mobile apps, software and technologies, Tokar continues. Its main objective is to jump start entrepreneurs creativity and innovation to build the next great device or app.
ATC’s Innovation Center will serve as a gateway for venture capital and angel funding. Alpharetta has realized that a young entrepreneur can grow to be a massive employer. Since Alpharetta comprises 25 percent of the top technology employers in metro Atlanta, it is a natural fit to nurture the nascent talent into full-fledged executive.
Though being a tech hub is easily a goal within grasp (or some argue, already attained), there’s also Alpharetta’s inviting lifestyle that make it a great place to live and work. From its proximity to good schools, world-class airport, access to top-notch universities, quality housing and an enormous green beltway, Alpharetta offers work-life balance to rival any other city in the South.