Alpharetta: It’s still the one

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Those of us who live and work up here in the North Fulton area already know about all of the advantages the area offers to businesses looking for a place to set up shop.

But our suspicions were confirmed recently when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a feature article in the Sunday Business section a couple of weeks ago under the headline “The big money still heads to Alpharetta.”

About 30 years ago, the article notes, Alpharetta city leaders set out to attract executives to the area with estate homes, private golf courses and country clubs and other high-end amenities. Of course, all this was in addition to the natural attractions of the region: lots of green space and parks, beautiful horse farms and a general high quality of life.

Three decades later, the effort has succeeded even beyond the city leaders’ wildest dreams. A number of Fortune 100 companies have established regional corporate offices and call and data centers in Alpharetta, including Coca-Cola, Motorola, Philips, Comcast, McKesson Provider Technologies and Lexis-Nexis.

These and dozens of other corporate heavyweights are providing a wide range of jobs for North Fulton and Forsyth county residents—from CEOs and other high-level executives to employees at virtually all staff levels. In 2009, Alpharetta landed at the top of Forbes magazine’s “reloville” list.

In addition to its natural beauty, a great lifestyle, a wide range of housing options and some of the best schools in the state, corporations are attracted to competitive office rental rates that are up to 10-15 percent lower than rival office markets like Central Perimeter, the AJC article notes.

The area’s miles of underground fiber-optic cable and data lines and a world-class broadband network make it an especially attractive location for all kinds of technology companies—900 of which now have a presence in Alpharetta. This includes seven of metro Atlanta’s top 25 technology companies, such as Verizon, E-Trade Financial and AT&T, all of which have moved up Ga. 400 from the Central Perimeter area to build campuses in North Fulton.

The migration of tech giants like these is helping stem some of the area’s bleeding from the loss of so many financial service and real estate companies that failed during the Great Recession. It will help fuel economic growth and provide stabilization for the market for years to come, a real estate strategist noted in the AJC article.

Of course, the Alpharetta region has its share of challenges, with transportation at the top of most lists. While getting from point A to point B within the region is fairly manageable, getting to and from North Fulton from throughout metro Atlanta remains a challenge.

In fact, many community leaders point to the lack of a rail system as the biggest challenge the area is facing, and the biggest potential impediment to future growth. Some say they’d like to eventually see a MARTA stop near North Point Mall, noting that the Central Perimeter area has four MARTA stops compared to none here.

The North Fulton Community Improvement District’s COO Ann Hanlon said in the AJC article that her organization is studying transit options, while trying to demonstrate to authorities that the region is “ready for transit and make the business case for it and that we can’t live without it anymore.”

Brian Patton, CCIM is a real estate broker, author and instructor. His brokerage firm is based in the Alpharetta area. He can be reached via his website: www.CommercialPropertyGuy.com or at 770-634-4848.