Starbucks brews up 500 jobs for metro Atlanta with new operations hub

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Starbucks plans to open a major office in Atlanta with 500 new jobs, a decision seen as a big victory by city and state officials trying to woo another iconic Seattle-based company to plant roots in Georgia.

The coffee giant has scouted Atlanta for months and confirmed plans to open a satellite office after a vote Wednesday by Atlanta's economic development arm. The city beat out several other competitors for the new hub.

Starbucks plans to invest $16 million in an 85,000-square-foot facility. Invest Atlanta will grant the company up to $250,000 toward the business expansion, which is expected to have an economic impact of $190 million. State incentives are likely to significantly increase the overall package, possibly into the millions.

“I’m just so thrilled to see this,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said ahead of the unanimous vote. “This was, I believe, the first pitch that I made, and it would have been really awful to not have had this happen.”

The Atlanta office will serve as an extension of the company’s headquarters, but the kind of jobs it will create has not been determined yet, company spokesman Richard Borges said. The roles are expected to be new positions, as opposed to consolidated or relocated jobs, adding to the company’s 175,000 employees across the United States.

Neither a specific office site nor an opening timeline has been established, but Borges said the city’s approval was a “key step” in moving forward. The company has numerous regional offices, including one in Phoenix near Arizona State University that focuses on technology.

J.C. Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, said it makes sense for Starbucks to want a regional office in Atlanta, citing a thriving business community and accessibility to Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport as economic benefits. The company’s presence will send a good signal to other businesses, he said, and residents stand to make money through new jobs.

But, Bradbury said, getting into “these incentive games” can be tricky.

“Businesses become used to them, and it becomes a race to the bottom to see who will offer the most,” he said. Offering grants makes it unclear whether businesses come because of the incentives or because the city is a good environment to work in, Bradbury said, adding that it can often be a combination of both.

Starbucks' decision comes as state and metro Atlanta leaders sharpen their pitch to fellow Seattle giant Amazon, which has Atlanta on its shortlist of 20 communities for its mammoth second headquarters campus and 50,000 promised jobs.

The state has led the negotiations for the so-called Amazon HQ2 project from the get-go, an Olympics-like chase for the biggest economic development deal in a generation.

Georgia's bid, shrouded in secrecy under state law, is believed to top $1 billion, including tax breaks, training programs and transportation improvements. And Gov. Nathan Deal has pledged to call a special legislative session if Amazon lists Atlanta as a top finalist for the $5 billion campus.

State officials will likely try to leverage Wednesday’s news to send an implicit message: If Atlanta is good enough for Starbucks, it’s good enough for Amazon.

Starbucks picked a booming Midtown Atlanta market for its new site.

Anthem and developer Portman broke ground this year on a skyscraper near Technology Square that will become the health insurer’s technology hub. Accenture, Honeywell and NCR recently announced expansions.

And Pandora Media, the music-streaming company, this month picked a 21-story Midtown tower for a 250-job expansion.

Starbucks has Atlanta ties that extend far beyond its network of coffee shops. The company acquired tea merchant Teavana, which was originally based in Buckhead, for $620 million in 2012. Though Starbucks continues to sell Teavana’s teas in its stores, the company announced last year that it would close all Teavana locations.

Starbucks also has Atlanta ties within its executive ranks. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s chief operating officer and group president, is a Spelman College graduate with deep roots in the region.


What it is: Starbucks plans to invest $16 million in an 85,000-square-foot facility for an operations hub that will create 500 jobs and an estimated economic impact of $190 million.

What it costs taxpayers: Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, granted the coffee giant $250,000 toward the development. State incentives, which were not immediately announced, are likely to significantly increase the overall package.

Why it matters: Georgia economic development recruiters have been hot on the trail of Amazon, another Seattle-based company, for a second headquarters that could bring as many as 50,000 new jobs to a $5 billion campus. Some hope that landing the Starbucks deal will send Amazon an implicit message.