“It’s a testament to everything the state offers,” said Gov. Brian Kemp at a ceremony on Coda’s 20th floor announcing the project.
Fifteen years ago, Coda was the site of dreary parking lots. Today it is a $375 million office tower for Georgia Tech researchers and their corporate partners.
Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera, who was a student at the university decades ago before the property was redeveloped, summed up the transformation in remarks to dozens of local executives.
In the late 1990s, “there was no good reason to be here, and there were plenty of good reasons not to be here.” Now, he said, it’s the “hottest tech neighborhood in America.”
Atlanta is known for its large supply of talent with technology skills, but the competition to recruit those workers is fierce.
The Atlanta area had 1,134 job openings for software engineers, paying an average salary of $99,200, as of Oct. 11, according to industry trade group Technology Association of Georgia. Cisco will compete with Microsoft and Facebook, among many others, in the hiring process.
The intense recruiting battle made it essential for Cisco to locate in Midtown, said Brooke Gothard, a vice president at brokerage JLL who represents technology companies looking to lease office space.
Tech companies hire “people in their 20s and 30s, engineers and sales people, and those people are already living in Midtown,” she said.
The list of technology companies that have opened new offices in Midtown is long, and getting longer almost daily.
Microsoft opened an office this year at Midtown’s Atlantic Station. Google will occupy 1105 West Peachtree, a new Midtown office tower, later this year. Mailchimp, which last month agreed to be acquired by Intuit for $12 billion, plans to move its headquarters to a new office complex on the Beltline, an area that real estate brokers call Eastside Midtown.
Cisco also will compete with companies that operate outside the tech sector but still need to hire software engineers and programmers. Railroad Norfolk Southern’s new Midtown headquarters is expected to open this year. NCR occupied its Midtown headquarters in 2018. Health insurance provider Anthem is located in Midtown and Visa said last month it plans to add 1,000 jobs in Midtown.
The state and local tax incentives offered to Cisco were not immediately available.
Georgia Tech and Portman Holdings developed Coda at Tech Square to provide office space for the tech industry. Coda tenants include software maker Keysight Technologies, WeWork flexible office space and one of the largest data centers in the Southeast.
The office tower is also a place to connect students in Georgia Tech’s co-op program with companies who may eventually hire them, said Patrick Smith, a managing partner at recruiting firm Lucas Group.
A Midtown office provides “great access to interns and entry-level tech talent from Georgia Tech,” Smith said.
West Coast tech companies also have been drawn to Atlanta’s Black tech talent to improve their workforce diversity. Georgia State University enrolled nearly 11,500 undergraduate students in 2019 who identified as Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Kennesaw State University, which maintains a large engineering school, Georgia Tech and the Atlanta University Center colleges all produce hundreds of Black graduates yearly.
Another reason Cisco may have picked Midtown is the company’s deep ties to Georgia. Cisco operates two offices in metro Atlanta and Chief Executive Chuck Robbins is a native of the Gwinnett County town of Grayson. His father was a local planning and zoning commissioner in Snellville, and his mother worked in the local courthouse.
In 2006, Cisco acquired Scientific-Atlanta, a maker of set-top boxes for cable TV, for $6.9 billion.