OTP developers should embrace MARTA

World Pay, you’re leaving us. We’re disappointed. You were a great Sandy Springs corporate citizen for years, but your present location is inadequate. So, you move on.

You could have gone to North Carolina, Texas or another technology hotbed, but decided to stay in the Atlanta metro region. Thank you! You realize that this region also has a world-class ecosystem of fresh technology talent, so why not tap it?

Not only can you draw from the emerging geniuses at the University of Georgia, Emory and Georgia Tech, you can access our skilled technical school students and increasingly dip into nearby engineering schools like Auburn and Clemson — universities graduating a significant pool of Georgia expatriates yearning for home.

After all, economic growth is not a zero-sum game, and it is unconfined by municipal borders. What benefits the region, benefits us all. Further, World Pay employees now living in Sandy Springs can stay here, continue contributing to our tax base and remain proud, productive community residents.

Interestingly, one reason you gave for departing is a desire to attract younger, urban-oriented, information-age workers. If that’s the case, why leave Sandy Springs? Our success in recruiting information-age residents and workers is why Google, AT&T and Comcast have targeted Sandy Springs for their state-of-the-art, high-speed fiber optic networks.

Simply stand outside any Sandy Springs MARTA station some morning. You will see young workers pour off the train from their urban environs, walking or biking to AirWatch, Cox Communications, UPS, Newell Rubbermaid, Compucredit, First Data, our three hospitals and a host of other Sandy Springs-based technology-oriented firms.

State Farm also needs these techno-wizards, so it is building a major facility on our border, a stone’s throw from Dunwoody’s MARTA station. In fact, World Pay is one of our few technology firms located outside the MARTA rail corridor.

MARTA is a key factor in attracting these urban technology workers to Sandy Springs. Unlike their parents, who hoped other people would ride MARTA so their drive to work would be easier, many millennials prefer transit.

Our challenge is getting developers to rethink their projects to seriously embrace transit within the rail corridor. This isn’t social engineering; it’s smart economics. No one wants to build empty monuments to lack of foresight.

Most businesses in this corridor don’t own their buildings, they lease. When mobility issues significantly affect employee morale and productivity, businesses like World Pay can exit as quickly as they arrive.

In Sandy Springs, we fortunately have two transportation networks; many metro communities do not. Yet one network — the road — is highly overburdened, and one — transit — is sadly underutilized.

Given today’s high land costs, developers (rightfully) say they need more density to make their projects work. Yet “business as usual” development forces jurisdictions to resist high density’s resulting traffic impact on quality of life.

A modest 15 percent increase in transit ridership at our four MARTA stations would remove thousands of cars from area streets and improve mobility for everyone. Do it, and we can talk about density.

Integrating transit into new development does require innovative thinking, but isn’t that the private sector’s strong suit? In Sandy Springs, we think so. That’s why we adopted our unique public/private service delivery strategy that has cut service costs, boosted citizen satisfaction, and freed resources to fund scores of new capital projects. Come on, private sector, you can do this!

Meanwhile, farewell World Pay. We will miss you. Thanks for staying in the Atlanta region. Yet, before you go, take one last glance around you.

Locate near one of our MARTA stations, and you can have the best of both worlds – a Sandy Springs address, and access to those bright info-age workers you seek.

Rusty Paul is mayor of Sandy Springs.