Honeywell chooses Midtown Atlanta for division HQ

Industrial conglomerate Honeywell said Monday it will establish a division headquarters and open a global software development center in Midtown Atlanta, a pair of moves it says will add more than 800 high-paying jobs to the region.

Morris Plains, N.J.-based Honeywell is the third Fortune 500 corporation in recent months to announce plans for major innovation centers in the city, following General Electric and NCR, and bolstering the region's research and development sector.

Honeywell makes thermostats, fire systems, smart building software, aerospace systems, wireless communications and products for energy exploration. Though known for hardware, Honeywell, like GE, has invested aggressively in software development and what’s known as the Internet of Things (IoT), or networked communication through the cloud of machines and sensors.

In a news conference at the state Capitol, Honeywell executives said the new Home and Building Technologies division, Honeywell’s largest division with nearly $10 billion in sales, will be established in Atlanta. The software center will serve virtually every segment of a company that recorded $38.6 billion in sales in 2015.

Terrence Hahn, CEO of the Home and Building Technologies division, and Krishna Mikkilineni, Honeywell’s senior vice president of engineering, operations and information technology, credited the Atlanta area’s workforce, research universities and infrastructure, including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, as key factors in the move.

“It’s all about talent for us,” Mikkilineni said in an interview. “We looked around and we said we really need the most diverse, the most innovative and the most advanced software talent, not just any software talent.”

The new software center will handle much of the IoT development for the company. Honeywell will look to hire software engineers covering a number of specialties, as well as data scientists, product managers, designers and experts in mobile communications and cloud computing, Mikkilineni said.

The company said about 100 jobs will be based at the new Home and Building Technologies headquarters and about 730 high-tech workers will be hired for the new software development center over the next few years. Most will be new hires.

Honeywell said it will spend about $19 million to open and outfit the two centers through 2018.

Hiring will begin this year, and Hahn said the company will occupy temporary space into next year. A permanent location was not announced for the headquarters and tech center, but people familiar with the process said Bank of America Plaza, the city’s tallest tower, 715 Peachtree Street and a handful of other buildings in Midtown are under consideration.

Honeywell now has more than 1,000 employees in Georgia at 11 facilities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Honeywell's plans for a major expansion Friday.

Gov. Nathan Deal said Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and the university system were vital in the recruitment.

“As Fortune (500) brands continue to choose Georgia for their digital operations centers they are redefining our economic makeup and are opening more and more opportunities for high paying jobs in Georgia,” he said.

Mayor Kasim Reed said the jobs on average are expected to pay $65,000 a year.

Hahn said the company has been offered grants of about $2 million from the state and Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, and is eligible for about $10 million in tax credits for new jobs created.

The region has seen a post-recession surge in tech jobs, with companies such as Equifax, Global Payments, Worldpay and InComm announcing expansions. GE in June announced plans for a new tech center and headquarters for its GE Digital division in Atlanta, though a location has yet to be announced.

NCR, which makes ATMs, checkout systems and travel kiosks, is moving its headquarters to Midtown from Gwinnett County. The company is mulling plans to expand that project as the first phase is under construction. NCR hasn't confirmed a second phase, but the firm said in recent weeks its headquarters also will be home to a new innovation lab.