Regional study targets Ga. 400 for employment growth - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Jan 8 @ 5:34PM

Regional study targets Ga. 400 for employment growth

North Fulton poised to expand in residents, jobs

Atlanta Regional Commission

ALPHARETTA, Ga. - A recent report by the Atlanta Regional Commission predicts major job growth along the Ga. 400 Corridor in North Fulton County, placing Roswell and Alpharetta at the center of an employment boom.

The report estimates that between 2015 and 2040, the 10-county Metro Atlanta Region will add just over 1 million new jobs. Almost one-third of those jobs will be along the Ga. 400 Corridor, the study predicts.

At the same time, the commission estimates a surge in population along the corridor to fill those jobs. The report predicts more than half a million people will move to the area over the next 23 years.

“The Ga. 400 corridor has long been an engine of economic growth in our region, and we expect that to continue over the next 25 years,” said Mike Carnathan, Data and Analytics manager for the ARC. “This vibrant area is home to a large, well-educated population that is attractive to employers across many sectors, from IT to healthcare.”

The study includes data from 20 counties surrounding Metro Atlanta but focuses on the core counties of Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.

North Fulton has already seen a foreshadowing of the coming surge, with thousands of new jobs and residents added over the past four years. That growth has already strained some elements of the area’s capacity to handle the influx.

“Certainly we want to make sure we are preparing workers to fill those available jobs,” said Bethany Usry, vice president for Economic and Talent Development for the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. “That’s part of why we had a coordinated effort from K-12 and higher education to understand what the business needs are, so they can plan accordingly.”

The chamber has formed a Talent Coalition that focuses on workforce development, constantly conferring with public and private schools throughout the area to coordinate curriculum.

In addition to the K-12 schools, the coalition works with public and private colleges in the area to coordinate classes that will help supply a trained workforce.

Both Gwinnett Tech and Georgia State University have satellite operations in Alpharetta, but the chamber also connects with private colleges, such as DeVry, University of Phoenix, Argosy University and Troy University.

Another challenge facing North Fulton now and most likely in the future is transportation.

“We realize that that is an important part of the workforce conversation because we need a way for workers that don’t necessarily live in North Fulton to be able to come here,” Usry said.

Fulton County cities are just now receiving revenues from a transportation sales tax (TSPLOST) passed by voters last November.

The money is expected to fund over $500 million in transportation improvements over the next five years. North Fulton cities alone are expected to garner more than $200 million from the tax to fund their projects.

At the same time, Usry added, Fulton County is currently conducting a transit study to weigh options for future transportation initiatives. The first phase of the study involves public meetings with residents to gather ideas and weigh sentiment about various transit options, she said.

Besides the cities’ own transportation initiatives, Usry said the North Fulton Community Improvement District, composed of business owners primarily along the Ga. 400 Corridor, has and continues to pour millions of dollars into transportation improvements. The CID has been responsible for supplying seed money for a variety of projects, including the Northwinds Parkway Extension which opened this week in Alpharetta.

In addition to transportation and workforce training, cities have recently introduced the issue of affordable workforce housing. While the debate on how to or whether to develop a strategy for such housing varies among cities, Usry said the chamber recognizes it as a growing issue.

“The chamber is not currently taking any type of advocacy position on that topic,” she said. “However during our recent strategic planning process, some discussion about affordable housing did come up. And we are beginning to weave that topic into the transportation and workforce conversation.”

She said the North Fulton Poverty Task Force recently addressed the issue at its quarterly meeting in July. The group is looking into housing options for what it terms “essential workers,” such as first responders, retail and service personnel.

The issue has also come up at the regional level, Usry said.

As a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Catalyst Committee, Usry said the topic came up recently in discussions of an economic competitiveness strategy.

“It was one of the topics that has bubbled up, certainly workforce and transportation, but affordable housing has bubbled up as a part of that conversation at the 10-county level,” she said.

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