With one of our most humbling of holidays right around the corner, I’m inspired to talk even more about how grateful I am to be living here in Atlanta. Thanks to all of you who work hard to make sure this is one of the most vibrant places to live, work and play in not just the entire country, but really in the world.
I know that I am one of the biggest homers when it comes to the ATL. I was indeed born and raised here. But all of you who were like my parents and moved here, probably moved here because we were offering something your old hometown wasn’t. I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again, I’d rather be from the place everyone is moving to than from where they are moving from.
I’m not saying Chicago isn’t a great city. It really is. But I cannot tell you how many friends we have that moved here from there. We visited there three years ago and walked from one great place to another along the river and through the city. The people were great, the food was great, and the atmosphere was really quite fantastic. I remember thinking, “winters here must be absolutely terrible to kick all of my friends out of this place.” My Chicago friends consistently tell me, “they really are.”
San Francisco is an eclectic town propped up against one of the most amazing natural backdrops in the world. But who can afford to live there? Or make profit in a company there? A recent Kiplinger Report has San Francisco as the 2nd most expensive place to live in the country only behind Manhattan. If you are a company competing on even a national level, you have to pay your employees enough to manage a cost of living that is 3.5 times the national average. Atlanta wasn’t anywhere near the top 20. But Boston, New York and Los Angeles certainly were (as were three cities in Alaska if you were thinking about escaping to there).
I do mortgages for people moving from New York and Los Angeles. They are truly blown over by the large size of the houses, and the small amount of taxes they have to pay, when they move down here.
In addition to our low cost of living and our relatively mild weather, one of the best things we have going for us — and it’s something that many big U.S. cities are way behind on — is the diversity of our economy. Atlanta was able to recover from the ’08 recession faster than most because we have so many industries here. With the airport in Atlanta and port in Savannah, we are full of freight and logistics companies. FinTech, or tech companies in the financial services industry, are scattered throughout the Metro area. I’ve read that something like 75 percent of all financial transactions in this country flow through the Metro Atlanta area.
Our presence in the film industry is one of the largest in the world. We’re becoming leaders in cybersecurity. Atlanta ranks fourth in the number of Fortune 500 companies located within its boundaries and we have been steadily creating over 70,000 new jobs a year.
I am not blind to the traffic that this success has created. Nor do I fail to acknowledge that we could have done better in community planning years ago when this success began. But as a city, we went for the brass ring. We literally came out of the ashes, lucked out with some homegrown Fortune 500 companies, and created a place with more opportunities to establish a career than most places on the planet.
So as a business columnist here, I’ll just say that this year, I’m going to be thankful that I’m in a successful city full of opportunities that are there for those willing to go for it.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group