Having recently assumed the role of CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development authority, I have been impressed with the accomplishments in Atlanta over the past year.
As the U.S. economy gains momentum, Atlanta is also hitting its stride, with major companies like Cricket Wireless, WorldPay, Serta Simmons and MaschioPack now calling it home. Along with these moves and the various entrepreneurial initiatives in progress, Atlanta has become a beacon to current and prospective businesses. The downtown landscape is being reshaped with public and private investments. Without a doubt, my new home is a city on the move.
In 2014, our community development efforts directed $69.3 million to projects that will catalyze additional investment and jobs. These projects will facilitate affordable and workforce housing, job development programs, land assemblage, cultural amenities, infrastructure improvements and assistance for small businesses to grow and expand. To support local communities and businesses, two new projects closed through Invest Atlanta’s New Market Tax Credit Program, providing funding to the Southside Medical Center in Peoplestown and creating the Advantage Loan Fund for small and medium-sized businesses.
Young people and empty-nesters are relocating inside the city to take advantage of an affordable, exciting quality of life. Invest Atlanta initiatives also tackled a variety of housing challenges.
The need for more independent senior living opportunities is addressed by City Lights, an 80-unit rental development under construction in the Old Fourth Ward. The growing student population has also created a need, and the Square on Fifth project in Midtown will provide housing for entrepreneurial students who hope to create and grow businesses. Additionally, Invest Atlanta assisted nearly 100 new homeowners through mortgage assistance programs.
Most economists would agree workforce housing near job centers is a necessity for the growth and development of a healthy, diverse community. Last year, Invest Atlanta’s efforts were instrumental in creating and attracting nearly 4,000 jobs, combined with 2,300-plus construction-related jobs that will provide approximately $2.5 billion of projected economic impact.
The successes and accomplishments of Invest Atlanta would not be possible without partners and board members committed to its purpose of increasing opportunity and prosperity for the people of our city. This team effort resulted in public and private investments of $671 million in 2014 alone.
In the coming weeks, we will begin implementing a housing strategy that addresses residential development and affordability. This is a collaborative effort, developed in partnership with many members of the community, city leaders and local housing organizations. In the coming months, we will also share our business development strategy that will outline how we plan to continue to position Atlanta as a place companies can reach their fullest potential by accessing a highly talented workforce, state-of-the-art infrastructure and dynamic quality of life.
Invest Atlanta and our city had a great 2014. I look forward to leading the agency to greater heights in 2015 and beyond.
Craig J. Richard is CEO and president of Invest Atlanta.