Fiber optics lay groundwork for ‘Tech City’

Alpharetta’s power grid creates tech mecca

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Today’s high speed, high tech business environment is fueled in large part by a strong infrastructure. Lots of reliable power and high capacity fiber optic cables make for an attractive business climate, and Alpharetta – the “Technology City of the South” – has both.

In the early 1990s, Atlanta was gearing up for the 1996 Olympics. The city was rejuvenating itself to welcome thousands of athletes and tourists, as well as the eyes of the world. At that time, the Internet was beginning to really show its promise as a data mover. Fiber optic cables were extended from the central data hubs of the Northeast into the city to provide for the burgeoning digital age. Alpharetta happened to be the gateway where many of these cables intersected.

“To a large degree, Alpharetta ended up being the hub of this massive fiber optic network, fortuitously,” said Alpharetta Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard. “Key trunk lines were put in and this was where they converged.”

Alpharetta’s leadership at the time saw an opportunity upon which to capitalize.

Al Nash, with the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Progress Partners program, said the fiber was only one component of a wider emerging infrastructure.

“When companies came here, one of the things they wanted was reliable power,” said Nash.

Georgia Power added many redundancies to their power grid, making power outages rare.

“Once a lot of that infrastructure was in place, then data centers started coming around. Alpharetta had reliable power at low costs, with low risks of natural disasters and a lot of commerce and industry using fiber.”

Wendy McArthur, with CBRE Reality, agreed. She said the data centers in Alpharetta need that strong infrastructure to stay profitable and provide reliable information.

“The Internet is not going away,” McArthur said. “You need the fiber and the backbone and the network to support that industry. Alpharetta is home to many large data centers that need to leverage that infrastructure.”

With the data centers come technology companies that use that information. With those companies come lots of high paying tech-related jobs.

“It’s had a great impact,” McArthur said.