Atlanta finishes fiscal year on top despite global pandemic

Atlanta finishes fiscal year on top despite global pandemic

By: Felipe Rivas 

2 min read September 2020—The pandemic has soured the business climate globally and through the United States for the better part of the year. However, in Georgia, consistently ranked as the top state to do business by different publications, though 2020 has been far from peaches and cream, the Peach State closed out the fiscal year with an increase in economic development projects and billions in new investments. In the midst of the pandemic, the state saw an increase in economic development projects and closed out fiscal year 2020 with a total of more than $7 billion in new investments made in the state, the governor’s office announced. 

During fiscal year 2020, ending June 30, economic development project locations increased compared to the year prior while the state reported a 30% increase in jobs created outside the metro Atlanta area. From July 2019 to June 30, 2020, and despite the global implications of COVID-19 during the second half of the fiscal year, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) supported the creation of more than 24,000 new jobs, generating more than $7.4 billion in total investment. The location of 350 projects constituted a 4% increase from fiscal year 2019, according to the governor’s office. 

“These numbers are proof that the fundamentals that have made Georgia a leading competitor for investment remain strong. Businesses far and wide understand that, and the result is more jobs for hardworking Georgians,” said Gov. Brian Kemp in a press release.

Since mid-March, when the governor’s executive stay-at-home order was in place, the whole business landscape changed. “But thanks to Georgia’s approach to business during COVID-19, we still saw 72 new projects, over 7,800 new jobs announced and $2 billion in investments to date,” GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson told Focus: Atlanta. Many companies recognized both the challenges and need for long-term plans for the post-pandemic future, providing an opportunity to automate and change business lines, Wilson said. “Some of our companies that were planning toward the 2021 horizon to invest in automation and upgrade facilities are doing so now,” he said. 

Industries that experienced significant growth in both jobs and investment during fiscal year 2020 include the manufacturing, logistics, software development and tech industries, according to the governor’s office.  “The tech sector has been one of the real hot points for job growth in the last few months,” Wilson told Focus: Atlanta “As COVID-19 deeply transforms the retail industry, tech jobs are booming as a result of the bustling e-commerce activity.” GDEcD is keen on supporting workforce development efforts and the talent pipeline needed to fill the jobs coming to the Peach State. “We continue to focus on ensuring we can provide the workforce to supply those jobs and keep them going. We are only as good as the long-term workforce in the pipeline for these companies,” Wilson said. The department’s strategic partnerships with Georgia’s robust trades and higher education system have been instrumental in the success of its economic development efforts. “There is a strong focus on growing jobs, especially the new jobs of the future, and making sure the graduating workforce is anchored in the latter,” Wilson said. 

Balancing recovery efforts while keeping momentum in the growing sectors of the economy are among the main priorities as Georgia enters its new fiscal year. “For the upcoming phase of recovery, we intend to keep a close eye on our strategic and growing industries to continue their momentum,” Wison said. “Parallel to cybersecurity, fintech and e-commerce, food processing is going to be a renewed strategy for companies, bringing it closer to their supply chain. Georgia’s massive agricultural base recognizes a sizable opportunity within that niche.” Supply chain disruptions as a result of the pandemic can potentially create economic development opportunities in the state. “We are also monitoring companies looking to pull their supply chain back into the United States. We continue to see ripple effects from overseas shutdowns and how they impact companies involved in real-time supply chains. A company that has to shut down because it does not have enough inventory of critical components impacts local production. A number of companies are thinking about diversifying their supply chain and we are focused on working with Georgia companies that experience these problems, assisting them by recruiting their suppliers into the state,” Wilson said. 

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Tourism sector shows signs of life in Georgia

Tourism sector shows signs of life in Georgia

By: Felipe Rivas 

2 min read September 2020 — In the Peach State, and throughout the world, the coronavirus decimated the travel and hospitality industry. Though the tourism sector remains among the most embattled sectors of Georgia’s economy, data trending in the right direction coupled with recent developments in the airline industry and a new museum coming to the Atlanta area are reasons to celebrate in the midst of a bleak year for the sector. 

Coming off a Super Bowl year in 2019, Atlanta, and the state of Georgia, was prepared to continue showing Southern hospitality to millions of tourists and guests. As of January, more than 500,000 people were employed in the hospitality sector across the state of Georgia, according the the U.S Bureau of Labor. But by April, as shelter in place measures and global travel restrictions were in full effect, the number of hospitality sector workers dropped precipitously to around 284,000 in a matter of weeks. According to the data, however, employment in the tourism sector has trended upward, month after month, since April, and currently over 420,000 Georgians are employed in the sector. 

While the tourism data is promising, the top U.S. airlines are doing their part to increase consumer confidence in the face of the coronavirus. United, American and Atlanta-based Delta this week announced they would drop most change fees for good. Change fees have long been a steady revenue stream for the airlines at the expense of the customer experience. For Delta, flexibility and maintaining health standards has been a major priority during the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve said before that we need to approach flexibility differently than this industry has in the past, and today’s announcement builds on that promise to ensure we’re offering industry-leading flexibility, space and care to our customers,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a press release. “We want our customers to book and travel with peace of mind, knowing that we’ll continue evaluating our policies to maintain the high standard of flexibility they expect,” he said. 

And while the tourism sector in Georgia sang the blues for the better part of this year, a new museum experience announcement will bring a much-needed change of tune to the region. The Grammy Foundation along with the Georgia Music Accord on Monday approved the Grammy Museum Experience in Atlanta. The Georgia Music Accord is exploring possible sites for the museum experience and locating funding sources, according to Saporta Report. The four pillars that will solidify the museum in Atlanta revolve around education, economic impact, workforce development and a celebration of Georgia’s musical heritage, according to the news outlet. Additionally, the museum reportedly is envisioned to have a scoring stage that would work on music scores for movies, TV shows and video gaming.

Spotlight On: Jenni Bonura, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

Spotlight On: Jenni Bonura, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

By: Felipe Rivas 

2 min read August 2020Atlanta’s solid pre-COVID real estate fundamentals are placing the city on a swift and steady road to recovery. Jenni Bonura, President and CEO of Harry Norman, REALTORS®, shares her opinion on what awaits Atlanta from the perspective of a nine-decade real estate heavyweight.

How did Harry Norman, REALTORS® tackle the transition to the COVID-19 landscape?

In 2020, Harry Norman, REALTORS® celebrates its 90th anniversary. The market in Atlanta has been great for several years and continues to be so, even in 2020. We continue to break records despite the challenging environment. In 2019, we broke  sales records several months back-to-back. We also broke some average sales price records. In July 2020, we exceeded another pending-sales volume record, our highest July in the nine decades of our company. Atlanta is a highly desirable place to be, especially compared to other large cities, for a myriad of reasons. We have launched several new initiatives in the last several months, which make us stand out and are propelling us ahead of our competitors. One is a marketing automation tool that drives speed-to-market. It provides marketing assets on-demand and enables us to promote our homes digitally. In a market where there is low inventory, it has been a game-changer for our agents and our seller-clients as well. We also launched a multi-channel media campaign in  2020, across TV, Print, digital and social media, focusing on our expertise and first-class service. The company also launched an exclusive app that is similar to a dating app in that we match up the needs of buyers and sellers. 

What are the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the area?

We are seeing the second-home market explode. People want a change of scenery. One of the beautiful things about Atlanta is that you can drive an hour or two and you are in the mountains, feeling the beauty of nature and disconnected from the city. We have seen in the Blue Ridge, Blairsville and Lake Rabun areas significant positive adjustments in that sense. It is affecting our metro clients. The areas of Gwinnett and Cobb are definitely booming, population-wise. Suburbia is harder to pinpoint as an actual trend but people are already leaning in the direction of wanting a house in the suburbs with more acreage for space and privacy. With the current low interest rates, there is an increase in buying power for larger properties.

Would you say transit hubs and the BeltLine foster in-town development? 

The BeltLine will always be attractive. Part of it is the beauty of nature available and the convenience of amenities, restaurants, ease of access to work, all at your fingertips. Coupled with the beautiful outdoors, the connectedness of neighborhoods, it adds significant variety and interest. Even if transit hubs with COVID-19 hit the pause button, there will always be a desire for people to want to make it easy to hop on and explore other parts of the city and yet have those amenities right at home. Our urban core is performing well and our suburban periphery is performing solidly as well. That is why Atlanta is overall performing great in the South in general. Based on the stats, as far as pending sales, the South is the only geography in the country that is on the plus side so far. 

What is your take on new construction during this time?

Closings outpaced starts from June to August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. That speaks volumes because in new homes, the inventory is less than it was last year. That remaining inventory is on its way to disappear fairly quickly. Even if the exact checklist a buyer may have is not fully met with the inventory that exists, a lot of builders are looking to pivot quickly. Some of the trends the virus brought to light are making them adjust their plans to reflect some of those changes. 

What are Harry Norman, REALTORS® priorities toward 2021? 

We are keeping an eye on ongoing trends. We want to be able to pivot quickly. The beauty of our company is that we are very much in tune with buyer needs and seller preferences. It helps us advise our new home builders and developers with highly granular boots-on-the-ground information. It also provides our agents an advantage when it comes to marketing, which obviously benefits our sellers. We are making a point of capitalizing on the virtual offerings we have, while looking for opportunities to help provide inventory and to educate sellers on how to best position their homes. The key to what we are going to see in the next few months is appreciation remaining slow and steady, probably ending at 4 percent for 2020, which will be mirrored in 2021 or at least in the year’s first half. Demand will continue to outpace supply but not necessarily at the same rate. We will move toward a more balanced market. 

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Technical college system major component of Georgia’s business climate

Technical college system major component of Georgia’s business climate

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August 2020 For the better part of the last decade, the Peach State has consistently ranked as the best state to do business year after year, a feat largely driven by Georgia’s robust higher education institutions and the state-funded technical college system. The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) is the state government agency overseeing Georgia’s 22 technical colleges. As the country slides into a pandemic-led recession, the system remains keen on solidifying Georgia’s workforce, while helping companies land the talent needed to thrive in a volatile economy. 

Georgia’s track record for attracting new industries and companies is largely a result of the state’s pro-business landscape, geographical location and proximity to other key markets, and efforts to nurture a market-ready workforce. The system’s mission is to build a well-educated, globally competitive workforce through technical education, adult education and customized training for Georgia’s businesses and industries. “We provide Georgians with the education and training that will lead directly to a career that is in demand,” Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Greg Dozier told Focus: Atlanta. “Our colleges work hand in glove with local industry to understand their workforce needs and offer programs that meet those needs.”

According to the National Skills Coalition, 54% of Georgia’s jobs are considered “middle skill,” or jobs that require more than a high-school diploma, but less than a four-year degree, Dozier said. However, only 42% of Georgians are trained to this level. “We are laser-focused on closing this middle skills gap.”

The system is in constant communication with businesses and industry leaders across Georgia, and has close partnerships with companies across different sectors, such as Mercedes Benz, Kubota, King’s Hawaiian Rolls and KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia. Via its Georgia Quick Start program, the system provides free workforce training for companies considering relocating to Georgia or expanding in Georgia. And market-ready talent is among the top necessities for companies wishing to relocate or expand in the Peach State. “We are at the table with the Department of Economic Development when meeting with companies that are considering Georgia as their new home,” Dozier said. “Businesses want to know how they’ll have a steady pipeline of skilled talent. That’s what we do.” Through these conversations the system can then develop training programs tailored to the businesses’ needs and expectations. “We went through this process with KIA, which now manufactures its Telluride, Sorento and Optima automobiles about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta,” Dozier said. 

Serving counties such as DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale, Georgia Piedmont Technical College is part of the Technical College System of Georgia and provides education for the three-county service area, mostly in the metro Atlanta region. “Across the counties we serve, companies come to us with their recruitment needs and it is our role as a technical college to ensure we have programs that support those jobs,” Georgia Piedmont Technical College President Tavarez Holston told Focus: Atlanta. Though the impact of the coronavirus has squeezed the education sector and the economy at large, Holston says the college remains keen on equipping the local workforce with in-demand skills and training. “As we look at the current environment, there are signs of life in the economy, and we want to make sure we remain relevant in producing a workforce that meets the needs of our counties. Even though COVID-19 has changed the way we do business, we are still getting calls from our industry partners that require training delivered virtually,” he said.  


Healthcare and tech-based training are among the most popular offerings at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. “There are two careers that seem to be gaining a great deal of traction, one of which is healthcare. We train essential frontline workers and we are proud to be part of that,” Holston said. “Another popular course is in manufacturing, which can be attributed partly to the rise of e-commerce. We are getting many requests for training in automation, programmable logic control and advanced manufacturing.”


While the ramifications of the coronavirus are likely to shape the future of business and education, leaders are optimistic that Georgia’s workforce will continue to meet the needs of employers and industries. “Our colleges have done a great job of preparing for in-person reopening following guidelines set by the CDC and GPH,” Dozier said. “I think there will be great needs with economic upticks in various industries across Georgia. As the economy comes back, the needs that TCSG satisfies for businesses and the community will make a difference. Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in the nation to do business seven years in a row. We will continue to build on the legacy Georgia has made for itself as the No. 1 state for business by providing a skilled workforce. The prospects for the state are extremely positive.”

After an overnight transition to remote learning in the spring, Georgia Piedmont Technical College aims to accommodate students’ needs further come the fall semester. “We have always done online and distance learning. But we have realized that we need to be more flexible and accommodating for our students,” Holston said. “We still have to think about the highest quality education we can provide during a pandemic. When the shelter in place order came down, we immediately started putting together an intensive two-year program that could be done in a year, with the reasoning that people at home have more time at their disposal.”


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City of Atlanta helps small businesses rise again

City of Atlanta helps small businesses rise again

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August 2020—True to its motto, the city of Atlanta looks to rise again by launching a new program to help small businesses recover from pandemic-related challenges. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the launch of the Resurgence Grant Fund, which is set to begin accepting applications next week. The Resurgence Grant Fund is slated to help qualifying businesses keep their operations open and cover pandemic-related expenses via grants of various amounts. 

“The City of Atlanta’s motto is Resurgens- Latin for ‘rising again.’ Resurgens is more than an emblem, it is part of the One Atlanta way, coming together as one community to support each other in times of need,” Bottoms said in a press release. “As COVID-19 continues to challenge Atlanta’s small businesses and the communities that depend on them, the Resurgence program will provide funds to help businesses operate safely and protect their employees as our city recovers together.”

Atlanta business owners wishing to take advantage of the Resurgence Program can apply for up to $40,000 to reimburse the costs of business interruptions as a result of shelter-in-place measures and pandemic-related closures. Business owners can use the grants to buy personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other health measures to protect their employees and customers. Through the funds, businesses will have access to up to $10,000 of no-cost technical assistance services, such as legal resources and workforce development, as they pivot their business practices to adapt to a more socially-distanced, digital and touch-free environment, the mayor’s office said in a press release. 

Eligible businesses must meet the following criteria: 

  • Operates an active for-profit enterprise in the City of Atlanta;
  • Holds a 2020 city of Atlanta business license;
  • Continuously in business and operating since March 1, 2019;
  • Had fewer than 250 employees as of March 1, 2020; and
  • Documented business interruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related emergency declarations, resulting in financial loss.

Economic development authority Invest Atlanta will handle the application process. The application window will be open from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31. “We are listening to the needs of the business community and continue to deploy resources to help them through the impacts of COVID-19,” said Eloise Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, in a press release. “Economic prosperity and competitiveness in Atlanta start with equity, and Atlanta’s recovery from the pandemic must be an equitable recovery. These new grant programs will help achieve this by ensuring more Atlanta small business owners have access to funds to adapt their business and operate safely.”

The Resurgence Grant Fund is made possible by the $88-million federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding to the city of Atlanta, of which $22 million was allocated to support small businesses and independent professionals impacted by the pandemic, the mayor’s office said in press release. 

Interest business owners can attend a citywide Resurgence Grant Fund webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 12, hosted by Invest Atlanta. 


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Tech sector continues to thrive in Atlanta

Tech sector continues to thrive in Atlanta

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020From coding to game development, there is a great desire for more tech-related training in the metro Atlanta region and major companies are stepping in to help usher the next generation of tech workers.

 The Atlanta area, long known as a logistics and fintech hub, is bolstering its reputation as a producer of tech talent in the Southeast. Recently, Atlanta ranked No. 9 out of 50 North American markets in CBRE’s  annual Tech Talent Scorecard. Atlanta added 31,960 technology jobs over the past five years, the commercial real estate services and investment firm reported. Atlanta ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in the top 10 markets for educational attainment and degree completion, respectively, CBRE noted in its 2020 report. The report compared the number of tech degree graduates versus tech talent job creation to determine if brain gains or brain drains occurred in the different North American markets they analyzed. Atlanta posted a brain gain of +647. In comparison, other large metros did not favor as well as Atlanta, with the nation’s capital posting a brain drain of -28,819 and Boston, not far from historied institutions such Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sitting at the bottom of the list with a brain drain of -32,426, according to the report. 

Though the metro Atlanta region is home to more than 70 higher education institutions, major companies are ramping up funding to meet the technological needs of students and residents. 

Technology giant, Apple, recently announced the deepening of existing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), adding more than 10 regional coding centers slated to serve as tech hubs for students and the local community. Among those institutions is Morehouse College, one of Atlanta’s most historic colleges whose alumni include civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr and filmmaker Spike Lee.

This effort is designed to expand coding offerings and workforce development opportunities to learners of all ages, Apple said in a press release. 

”Apple is committed to working alongside communities of color to advance educational equity,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “We see this expansion of our Community Education Initiative and partnership with HBCUs as another step toward helping Black students realize their dreams and solve the problems of tomorrow.”

Similarly, the Georgia Game Developers Association (GGDA) in June received a sizable grant from a major video game developer to help educational leaders teach a popular game engine supported by different industries.

Epic Games, host of the Unreal engine, a real-time 3D creation platform for photoreal visuals and immersive experiences, committed $100 million to support game developers and media professionals, students and teachers in the Peach State and beyond. 

“The Unreal engine has become not only the standard for making games, but also for pre-visualizing movies, creating great architecture designs, making great television shows and more,” said Andrew Greenberg, executive director of the GGDA. “Unreal has become one of the most valuable skills new graduates can know when they seek jobs in these fields.”

He added: “The GGDA applied for the grant because the need for skilled Unreal developers has far outstripped the current supply. Georgia companies like Hi-Rez Studios, Tripwire Interactive, the Weather Channel, Pinewood Atlanta Studios and more rely on this technology, and offer great opportunities to recent grads who can use it well.”

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Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020 — The Peach State’s methodical investments in economic development, workforce training, support for small businesses, and overall pro-business environment continue to pay dividends for the region, even in the midst of a global pandemic.


Georgia was once again celebrated as a leader in economic development in June by Area Development Magazine, which awarded the state its 12th Silver Shovel Award. This distinction, Georgia’s 11th consecutive award, celebrates the region’s excellence in economic activity, job creation and investment attraction. Besides this latest recognition, the region also saw significant technology-based business expansion in June, while its film industry readies to meet pent-up studio demand, which is set to employ some 40,000 people — a significant boon to the local economy afflicted by coronavirus-related challenges. 

“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of all of the hardworking Georgians who consistently create opportunities in their communities,” Gov. Brian Kemp said of the 12th Silver Shovel Award, according to a press release. “For 11 years in a row, Georgia has earned this recognition thanks to our pro-business environment, unmatched workforce, world-renowned logistics, and long-standing commitment to attracting jobs to every corner of the state. I want to thank our state’s economic development team and our local partners for their tireless work to promote prosperity throughout the Peach State.”

While compounded economic activity prior to the coronavirus slowdown may have significantly maintained the state’s pro-business reputation, recent June business expansion announcements continue to highlight the strong economic fundamentals found in the Peach State. 

Three technology-based companies announced investments and job creation plans in different Georgia communities. Milletech Systems Inc., SK Innovation, and Perspecta, companies that span the gamut of technology services from software solutions to advanced manufacturing to cybersecurity, are set to bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region while providing millions of dollars in investments. These announcements are testaments to Georgia’s “top-notch college and university system and training programs,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Milletech will be pleased with their decision to expand and invest in Georgia along with the skilled talent we have right here in the Peach State.” Kemp had similar sentiments when speaking of the other recent technology company expansions.

To go along with editorial recognition and recent business expansions, the Peach State’s film sector officially opened for business following months-long coronavirus-related shutdowns. Major motion picture, television, and streaming companies are gearing up to hire approximately 40,000 production workers, the governor’s office announced in June. The announcement follows revised safety protocols provided by the Georgia Film Office, which complements further safety guidelines published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, aimed at ensuring a safe workplace environment and reducing the spread of the virus. 

An expected 75 productions are set to resume filming. They are projected to inject over $2 billion into the Georgia economy during the next 18 months, helping more than 17,000 small businesses in the process. “The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jumpstart the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” said Gov. Kemp, according to a press release.

“Georgia is open for business, and we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the film industry moving forward,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. In 2019, 391 film and television productions filmed in Georgia, supported by 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses. “Thanks to the historic best practices guide, Georgia is able to safely send the tens of thousands of film and TV industry employees back to work and restart production. The economic impact of film touches local communities and small businesses across Georgia. We look forward to resuming the hundreds of productions across the state and to keeping Georgia as the nation’s film and TV capital,” Wilson said.

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The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?


The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.


Decatur Driving Global COVID-19 Response

Decatur Driving Global COVID-19 Response

Written by: City of Decatur 

2 min read June 2020 As the world seeks answers to the devastating impact of COVID-19, many of the most critical questions about the virus and how to eradicate it are being routed through Decatur. And while the CDC certainly plays an outsized role in this equation and generates most of the attention, The Task Force for Global Health in Downtown Decatur is quietly using its infrastructure to drive solutions.


“When it comes to our work, we take pride in operating mostly behind-the-scenes and shining the light on our partners rather than ourselves,” said Bill Nichols, executive vice president and COO for The Task Force for Global Health.


Behind the scenes or not, The Task Force has been a crucial force in the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, including coordinating the distribution of 1.4 million pieces of personal protection equipment to hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country, strengthening epidemiological and lab skills through training 14,000 individuals around the world, and hosting monthly teleconferences for health officials worldwide to connect and share best practices and treatments. 


Additionally, The Task Force is coordinating critical collaborations between the public and private sectors, aligning the contact tracing efforts of tech giants like Apple and Google with health officials around the world.


“This pandemic has clearly changed the way our country thinks about global health, and it’s up to all of us to ensure we don’t lose focus on this critical issue in the future,” said Nichols. “Being properly prepared for a pandemic requires billions of dollars, but it’s an investment worth making as an ‘insurance policy’ to protect against the type of economic fallout we are experiencing.”


While the coronavirus pandemic has thrust discussions about vaccines into the mainstream, The Task Force regularly works on coordinating the vaccine safety efforts related to epidemics affecting areas and regions that are often overlooked. Having this infrastructure in place has allowed the organization to continue its lifesaving work in underserved regions around the globe while also addressing COVID-19, including through its Brighton Collaboration, a worldwide network of over 5,000 vaccine researchers that ensures vaccine safety, and the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI), a program that works with low and middle-income countries around the world to develop their influenza vaccine delivery infrastructure, which will better prepare them for when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.


“Now more than ever, our location in Decatur serves as a major asset when you consider how closely we are working with the CDC, Emory and other Atlanta-based institutions to address the pandemic,” added Nichols. “It also allows us to give back, as we are sharing our global expertise with the Dekalb County Coronavirus Task Force to guide our own community through a safe reopening in the days, weeks and months ahead.”


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