Source: NorthFulton.com

Tech, downtown goals of Alpharetta
State of City address outlines progress in city

by Jonathan Copsey

February 26, 2014

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Anyone can tell you, having goals is important. However, just as important is to have a plan of how to achieve those goals.

Two years ago, Mayor David Belle Isle and Alpharetta had two goals – become the No. 1 technology city in the Southeast and become a hometown for its residents.

At the third annual State of the City address to the Alpharetta Business Association Feb. 24 at the Metropolitan Club, Belle Isle said the city was well on its way to meeting both those goals.

“The state of the city has never been better,” said Belle Isle.

Alpharetta boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the state and the lowest crime rate in city history.

“We’ve got to make a city where people choose Alpharetta as a hometown,” he said. “We can’t be a good hometown without a good downtown, and we can’t have a good downtown without good food and entertainment.”

Two years ago, Alpharetta’s residents approved $30 million in bonds to build a new downtown and City Hall. That investment is quickly taking shape, with the City Hall structure nearly complete. By the end of the year, a town green and parking deck should be completed along with the City Hall itself. That will complement the already packed downtown and events.

“We really ramped up special events,” Belle Isle said.

A singer/songwriter event was created, and food trucks were brought to town every week. Nearly every weekend had something going on downtown. A concern Belle Isle said he had was event fatigue – how many events are too many before people start tiring of coming downtown?

It turns out he needn’t have worried.

“Some of our biggest events had 5,000 people come,” he said.

Also showing signs of progress is an influx of new technology companies in the past year.

“Alpharetta has a great reputation for being a great place for Fortune 1,000 and Fortune 500 companies,” he said.

There are 600 technology companies within Alpharetta’s borders and a further 300 in nearby cities. For comparison, Atlanta has 300 companies and Austin, Texas, has 600. Both are considered tech meccas.

Between the proximity to the airport and density of tech companies, Belle Isle said the city is poised to achieve its goal of becoming that tech hub of the region.

“We have the highest concentration in the Southeast,” he said.

The city is pushing hard to gain even more such companies by creating a startup incubator and the Alpharetta Technology Commission to help city policies attract more companies.

In the past year, the city attracted 3,500 new technology jobs. Financial services company FiServ announced last week it was bringing 2,000 jobs to the city.

The new mega-development of Avalon fits into the puzzle very neatly, he said.

“It’s a gigabit community, the first in the state,” he said. “It would be an understatement to say this will be a game changer.”

Avalon will tap into Alpharetta’s fiber optics cable network – which is a primary driver of technology companies in the city – for office and residential uses, giving them the speeds traditional Internet connections cannot meet.

“The technology and our downtown are working together in a really neat way,” Belle Isle said. “People want to work in a place they want to live in.”

Revue and News 02-26-14