BlackRock to open tech hub in Atlanta with 1,000 jobs

Investment giant BlackRock, one of the world’s elite financial services and asset management companies, announced plans Thursday to open a new innovation center in Atlanta, where it expects to locate about 1,000 jobs over the next several years.

The announcement by New York-based investment firm, which manages more than $6.4 trillion worth of assets for clients across the globe, is a major coup for a city emerging as a hub for software and technology centers for some of the country’s biggest companies.

In the last few years, several companies including GE, AnthemAccenture, NCR and Honeywell have planted new tech centers in Atlanta, bringing with them thousands of high-paying jobs. Many have clustered in Midtown near Georgia Tech, to tap into the research university's faculty and student talent.

The Atlanta hub joins recent new technology centers announced by BlackRock, including in an office in Budapest, Hungary, and an artificial intelligence center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Metro Atlanta is also a financial technology hub. Georgia is the payments capital of the U.S., processing some 70 percent of all debit, credit and gift card transactions in the nation each year, according to the American Transaction Processors Coalition.

Metro Atlanta is also home to the Invesco, another major investment management player, and Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

A press release from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office offered few details about the center and did not say where in the city it will be located. Two people familiar with the company’s search process, but who aren’t authorized to speak, said BlackRock is interested in locations in Midtown.

But heavy office demand and limited available space in Midtown could force the company to either look elsewhere in the city or seek a home in buildings still in the development pipeline.

The company is likely to open temporary offices in the coming months as BlackRock searches for a permanent office location, a third person said.

In an employee memo provided by the firm and signed by BlackRock COO Rob Goldstein, the company touted the its future proximity to Georgia Tech where it sponsors a scholarship program for socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“While many established brands call Atlanta home, the area also boasts a vibrant startup community with one of the highest rates of new business formation in the country,” the memo said. “We intend to build our presence in Atlanta over the next several years, creating career opportunities for our people and attracting top talent.”

The center is likely to create software design and development positions, and require engineers and finance professionals, one of the people said.

“The Atlanta innovation hub is an example of BlackRock’s strategy to serve clients globally and locally and we are excited to build our presence in the area over the next several years,” Goldstein said in the release. “Atlanta was chosen for its skilled and diverse talent pool, thriving business community and high quality of life as we look to attract top talent and constantly innovate how we operate.”

BlackRock had about 14,000 employees worldwide at the end of 2017. The company manages pension and defined contribution retirement funds, it serves multinational corporations governments, nonprofits and educational systems.

The company reported about $12.5 billion in revenue in 2017, up 12 percent from a year earlier, and profits that increased 57 percent last year of nearly $5 billion.

Roger Tutterow, an economist at Kennesaw State University, called the announcement “a great win” for a region noted as one of the Southeast’s biggest financial hubs.

“They are likely to bring jobs with significant compensation,” he said.

An incentive package for the company has not been finalized, according to a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The company is likely to command multimillion dollars in tax breaks for newly created jobs, and could see other subsidies from Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm.

The state economic development team, Invest Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Georgia Power were involved in the company’s recruitment.

“BlackRock is at the forefront of investment tech and will join more than 20 corporate innovation centers here that make us a top-tier city for corporate innovation,” Eloisa Klementich, CEO of Invest Atlanta, said in the release.

Deal touted Georgia’s rankings as a top state for business and said BlackRock’s decision is “a powerful statement of what Georgia has to offer to industry leaders.”

“Georgia provides a workforce that is among the nation’s best and brightest, and their talents and skills, paired with our willingness to embrace cutting-edge innovation, will provide BlackRock with valuable resources as the company continues to grow across our nation,” he said.

What is BlackRock?

Founded in the 1980s, BlackRock is one of the world’s elite financial services, risk management and asset management companies. BlackRock had about 14,000 employees worldwide at the end of 2017. The New York-based company manages pension and defined contribution retirement funds, it serves multinational corporations governments, nonprofits and educational systems. The company reports assets under management totaling more than $6.4 trillion.