September 1, 2015
Atlanta: The Ripening Silicon Peach
by Neil Snowdon
Atlanta's low costs, universities and growing population of Fortune 1,000 companies is making it a fast-growing tech and insurance hub.
When evaluating the beginnings of established tech markets in the U.S., there are several similarities about their regional characteristics that can serve as indicators for their tech trajectory. Consider Palo Alto, New York and Seattle, also known as the centers of Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and Silicon Forest, respectively. Each has unique advantages with its geographies, easy access to Millennial tech talent, attractive quality-of-life benefits and specialized technology roots.
The same pattern is beginning to emerge in Atlanta. Atlanta’s combination of low cost of doing business, educational institutions and growing population of Fortune 1,000 companies is making it one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country. This year, Atlanta was ranked among the top 10 tech talent markets with a 21% growth in tech jobs since 2010, according to the latest CBRE report.
One driver in Atlanta’s recent economic and tech growth is the infiltration of insurance. The insurance industry is undergoing a tech transformation of its own, and of late several of the industry’s leading insurance companies have set up shop in the region.
Let’s take a look at how we got here.
Tech Market Drivers
In addition to a prominent business ecosystem – Georgia is home to 20 Fortune 500 headquarters and 33 Fortune 1,000 companies – Atlanta’s tech surge is largely fueled by its world-class universities, which emphasize technology specialization and diversity, and its reputation as an attractive work-life destination.
Like Silicon Valley’s beginnings with tech recruits from local Stanford University, Atlanta’s midtown is walking distance from two respected universities, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State. Georgia Tech is currently ranked seventh in the nation among public universities, and its college of engineering is consistently ranked in the nation’s top five. Georgia State is ranked fifth in the nation for its risk management and insurance program. The vast pool of graduate talent each year is a huge attraction for start-ups and Fortune 1,000 companies alike.
Atlanta’s universities are also known for their emphasis on diversity. Georgia Tech is consistently rated among the top universities with high graduation rates of underrepresented minorities in engineering, computer science and mathematics. This has transcended the universities into the region’s broader tech community — Atlanta is ranked as one of the top five states for women-owned businesses, with a 132% growth rate from 1997 to 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As far as work-life attractiveness, Atlanta has been named the “top city people are moving to” by Penske for the last five years, because of the range of job opportunities, low cost of living and appealingly warm weather. Similarly, according to the job website Glassdoor, Atlanta was named one of the top 10 cities for someone to be a software engineer.
The insurance industry is one of the key drivers of economic growth in the country — and it is establishing major roots in the Atlanta region. Just in the last few years, Atlanta has seen a number of insurance companies relocate their head offices to the south. Recently, State Farm announced the addition of 3,000 jobs over the next 10 years, and MetLife just announced a significant investment in Midtown, choosing this area for its proximity to rapid transport and the international airport. Where Atlanta is situated, travelers can reach 90% of the U.S. in fewer than three hours.
Insurance growth in the region is also likely linked to the density and size of insurance claims on the East Coast, with the largest insurance providers located along the corridor from Boston down to Miami. The 10 most costly hurricanes in the U.S. history have hit the East Coast, and four have greatly affected Georgia.
2015 and Beyond
Looking ahead, I expect the majority of insurance companies to increase their visibility in Atlanta, as they’ll find a wider pool of insurance experts and other advantages that cater to the industry’s growth. Similar to the tech hubs ahead of it, Atlanta will continue taking advantage of its geography, access to talent and cultural ideals to not only build its tech community but to also push the insurance industry forward. The U.S. will soon have another major tech hub to be proud of.