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Atlanta's Tech Talent Mojo On The Rise

Atlanta's technology sector has bloomed in recent years, and it is now among the 10 cities with the deepest pool of tech talent, according to a new study, a metric that no doubt Amazon is paying attention to as the city vies for $5B Amazon HQ2 project.

Rendering for the plaza around Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas headquarters at The Battery at SunTrust Park

Atlanta has the eighth-largest employed technology talent pool in the U.S. with more than 134,700 jobs, according to a recent CBRE report. The metro region also saw the third-fastest growth of new tech jobs since 2012, with more than 34,700 people filling in tech firm payrolls. Only Toronto and Charlotte produced more tech jobs in that period.

“The amount of and quality of tech talent has risen dramatically here,” CBRE First Vice President Christian Devlin said. Devlin is a tenant rep in Atlanta who focuses on tech firms.

National rankings of technology job talent pools for the U.S. and Canada by CBRE

CBRE’s Tech Talent Scorecard report evaluated 13 metrics, such as tech talent supply, growth, concentration, cost, completed tech degrees, industry outlook for job growth and market outlook for both office and apartment rent cost growth. Atlanta's overall tech scorecard ranked the city in ninth place. The report illustrates an overall North American economy on technology steroids.

The number of tech workers has risen 16% over the last five years, reaching nearly 6 million workers in U.S. and Canada. With the addition of 682,000 jobs, the tech industry is adding jobs three times the U.S. national average job growth.

The report offers a glimpse as to why the Metro Atlanta market is a finalist for Amazon's second headquarters project, especially since Amazon plans to hire some 50,000 high-paying employees. Amazon officials said they were seeking a market with a strong labor pool in its RFP

The race is now between 20 U.S. and Canadian cities, most of which show up on CBRE's tech talent pool report.

Tech's impact on Atlanta's skyline is undeniable. By some estimates, 35% of the city's office deals in 2017, and nearly two-thirds of the deals in the past two years have been tech tenants, with companies like NCR, Anthem, Pandora and CallRail.

Atlanta also has become a global capital for financial technology companies, known as fintech, according to a recent report by Savills Studley. More than 70% of all payment transactions pass through Atlanta, garnering the city the nickname "Transaction Alley,” Savills Studley officials said.

“The number of the events where local tech companies are having meaningful growth ... we're seeing through expanding or taking space for new jobs as well as the number of companies coming in from out of town,” Devlin said.

The latest case in point is Thyssenkrupp, which announced Thursday that it was building a new North American headquarters for its elevator division at The Battery at SunTrust Park and consolidating some 650 employees from across the country into the new $200M campus. In all, Thyssenkrupp will house more than 900 employees at The Battery.

The German conglomerate began a search for a headquarters location by evaluating 25 cities in the U.S. 18 months ago, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas CEO Rich Hussey said. That was whittled down to five cities soon after.

Some key metrics that pushed Atlanta to the top included Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Georgia Tech, which supplies a steady stream of engineers and other computer scientists necessary, Hussey said.

Hussey said The Battery site, the home of the Atlanta Braves, was attractive for its employees given it was at the nexus of two major interstates as well as near an affluent community with strong public schools.

“There is a war for talent right now in every city,” he said. “Obviously, this area is known for excellent schools and excellent neighborhoods, so that was a big consideration. We just thought that this, from an amenity point of view and attraction point of view [for] employees, we thought this was great.”

CBRE First Vice President Christian Devlin

JLL International Director Rob Metcalf, part of the team who represented Thyssenkrupp, said more tech companies are eyeing Atlanta because of that deepening talent pool.

“A lot of students are staying in Atlanta versus going to other markets,” Metcalf said. “Atlanta is a magnet for that type of employee base. My opinion is it's more of a permanent thing and continuing to grow.”

Devlin, who moved to Atlanta from San Francisco six years ago, said he has witnessed Atlanta's explosion into the tech scene first-hand. Most recently, Devlin represented San Francisco-based Revel Systems in opening a new 25K SF office at Bank of America Plaza in Midtown. The company plans to create more than 170 jobs in Atlanta over the next three years, including in software development.

“It is evident to me that Atlanta is on the map. When I first got here, I felt that there were a lot of folks outside of Atlanta who weren't aware of what was going on. I don't feel that way now,” he said. ”We're still really early in this tech revolution. Last year it felt like we were early in the J curve. It still feels to me like we're getting going.”

CORRECTION, JULY 27, 1:45 P.M. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Atlanta's current talent pool ranking. Atlanta ranks eighth in the United States but ninth in CBRE's overall talent scorecard ranking. The story has been updated.