Startup ecosystem has a new Silicon Valley: Philadelphia

Startup ecosystem has a new Silicon Valley: Philadelphia

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read July 2020The term “startup” may bring to mind a group of motivated mid-20-year-olds huddled together in a high-tech office somewhere in Silicon Valley. However, the southern part of San Francisco Bay is no longer the only hotspot for young, ambitious people. The Philadelphia Business Journal recently reported that Philadelphia has one of the top emerging startup ecosystems in the United States, according to a new study from the Startup Genome. Although startups are often small enterprises, the role they play in economic growth is extensive. With new entrepreneurs come new ideas, new innovations and new competition for bigger corporations. 

 

While all startups have the ability to transform into a big business, there are many differences between the two. Along with having different visions for growth and sustainability, startups also tend to have a unique relationship with funding. Unlike a traditional business, startups often rely on capital from outside investors or venture capital firms. Running out of money is the second-most common reason for a startup’s failure. An estimated 29% of startups fold because they ran out of cash, according to CB Insights. With that being said, more and more entrepreneurs are opening up shop in Philadelphia because it has a diverse population, an urban atmosphere and most importantly affordable rents. 

“People who do tech startups in Philly still feel that giddy sense of wonder and magic that comes from starting something totally new. We don’t take it for granted. We still feel lucky and grateful to be doing what we’re doing. We’re scrappy. Philly tech is the way I imagine Silicon Valley must have been before the personal computer boom, the first internet boom, and the second internet boom made startup success feel like a foregone conclusion. In the Valley, most employees don’t remember those days. In America, we’re used to thinking of the East as the past and the West as the future. But when it comes to tech, the tables are turned. The Valley is experienced and satisfied. Philly is young and hungry,” Michael Idinopulos, a social business pioneer, wrote in a blog originally for PeopleLinx, now FRONTLINE Selling, and reposted on Robin Hood Ventures

Startups and small businesses are also a crucial part of Philadelphia’s economy. Startups have been proven to boost employment patterns, which leads to more job opportunities. In 2019, small businesses created 57,377 net jobs. Firms employing fewer than 20 employees experienced the largest gains, adding 34,585 jobs, according to Pennsylvania Small Business Economic Profile. Other than economic growth, startups also tend to revolutionize technology. Exyn Technologies, founded in 2014 by Nader Elm, is just one of the many startups using research to create technology designed to keep more people out of harm’s way. Exyn Technologies pioneers autonomous aerial robot systems to improve operational efficiencies and safety for data gathering in underground mining. 

“I think it is interesting as we are watching the use of drones following the emergence of COVID-19. A lot of companies have started testing and demonstrating the capability of using drones to disinfect public areas. I think that is super relevant and very important not only for this pandemic, but it also shows how the industry at large is adopting autonomous tech in all kinds of environments. Also, it is fascinating to think about autonomous inspections and data collection for heavy industry,” Joe Snodgrass, field engineer at Exyn Technologies, told My Dear Drone. 

 

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.

To learn more, visit: https://gov.georgia.gov

 

 

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.

 

Orlando scores a win for its tourism sector

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Hospitality leaders and sports fans alike are cheering for the Central Florida region as the city of Orlando prepares to score a major win for its embattled tourism sector this summer. 

 

 Orlando will be the epicenter of professional sports this July as both the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer set up camp at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in an effort to resume their respective seasons following the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Earlier this month, Major League Soccer announced plans to restart the 2020 season with all 26 clubs competing in the “MLS is Back Tournament,” a month-long World Cup-style tournament set to begin on July 8. The tournament, which will be played without fans in attendance, allows the league to salvage its 25th season. 

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber, according to a press release. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play,” he said. 

In similar fashion, NBA fans will cheer for their favorite team from afar as players, coaches and staff settle in Orlando for the coming months. A 22-team NBA season is set to resume on July 31 with the playoffs slated to end in early October.  

Though the different games will be played without fans in attendance, these major sporting events will likely introduce visitors to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex, further solidifying Orlando’s penchant for holding world-class events while helping mitigate the immediate impact of the coronavirus on Orlando’s hospitality and tourism industry. 

“Event organizers are familiar with Orlando as a destination, but for the public, they’ll learn an awful lot about what a wonderful venue the Wide World of Sports is,” Greater Orlando Sports Commission President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Siegel said, according to Front Office Sports. “It enhances the already great perception of the community for when we have the next conversations with FIFA as it relates to the World Cup or the bids we’ve put out for the 2022 to 2026 NCAA championship events. It just lends itself to an already robust portfolio of hosting marquee events,” he said.

 

Since March, 13 events have been canceled and not rescheduled, according to Front Office Sports, while another seven have been postponed, costing the region more than $49 million in economic impact. 

Another estimate by Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond showed that tourism and development tax dollars dropped 97 percent in March, according to WKMG News 6. Diamond’s report said last year in March, the county collected nearly $27 million in tourism and development tax dollars. This March, less than $800,000 was collected, WKMG News 6 reported. 

Hoteliers and theme park officials are also rooting for the success of the region’s tourism sector. Hotels and parks are beginning to open up after more than three months of closures and severe layoffs and furloughs. 

Major parks like SeaWorld, Universal, and Islands of Adventures are operating under limited capacity and following the CDC guidelines, while Disney World is expected to begin its phased opening in July. “We are seeing the impact slowly coming back,” Visit Orlando CEO and President George Aguel told WKMG News 6. “Seeing Universal kicking off, SeaWorld following and naturally Disney coming into their own in July is big news.”

 

Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Although the COVID-19 pandemic has the curtailed demand for commercial real estate, it has also accelerated the transition from on-site to online shopping, Colliers International Atlanta CEO Bob Mathews told Focus: Atlanta. Though it is hard to predict the lasting impact of the virus on the marketplace, industrial usage will likely fare better because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy, Mathews said. 

 

 

 

What was the start of 2020 like for the Atlanta operations?

We had a strong first quarter, matching our 2019 performance from the same period. At present, it is difficult to gauge the long-term impact of COVID-19. The indications point to a reasonably significant dip in overall transaction activity, which will impact revenues. The answer lies in the time it takes for the U.S. economy, and in particular the corporate sector, to rebound. That will have a direct impact on our deal flow. We have already had a number of deals scrapped or put on hold as a result of the crisis, but the true net impact on our revenues will become clear further down the road. Demand has not completely disappeared, but it has been severely altered. 

 

How are landlords and tenants navigating the challenges brought on by COVID-19?

We have found that landlords in the industrial and office sectors have been willing to help some tenants with their leases and rent payments. If the tenants have a strong payment history, landlords can often defer rent if necessary, particularly in the case of small and medium-sized businesses that are under significant stress in the current environment. Available solutions include deferrals and temporary concessions in exchange for extended rental terms. 

 

Landlords in the retail space have also proven to be willing to negotiate with tenants suffering from this COVID-19 interruption; however, they have to see a long-term business plan and a path back to sustainability. Restaurants have suffered the most of all retail tenants. It will be a long way back to business for many of the smaller, less-capitalized operators. 

 

Which sectors are performing well during the current economic cycle?

It is no secret that Amazon has been profiting from this situation and the company has been considering expanding its operations. So some of the larger corporates are driving demand. We anticipate that most industrial usage will fare better, because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy. This change has been happening for the past 15 years but with COVID-19, it has accelerated as consumers of all ages have become used to online spending. Small and medium-sized businesses will have to adapt and figure out their role in this new marketplace.

 

What is your outlook for the real estate market in the next 12-18 months?

Growth cycles in the real estate sector tend to last for about 10 years. Going into 2020, we have had about 10 years of strong growth, following the 2008 financial crash and its aftermath. So we were expecting a slowdown. COVID-19, however, is a black swan event that has caused a nosedive far sharper than we had foreseen. It’s an extremely deep hole and it will take time to climb our way out. Aviation, tourism and hospitality are all huge contributors to the economy, and until they recover, the economy will continue to suffer. I think it will take a long time. 

 

We have had to reconsider our strategic goals. Instead of our usual three- to four-year plan, we are starting on a short-term one-year plan to take us through to June 2021, because it is so hard to know what is around the corner. Fortunately, the banks have strengthened significantly since 2008, and the government also has capital available to ease the impact of this crisis. For investments, there remains strong sources of U.S. and overseas capital for CRE, so that gives me hope that we may recover faster than expected. Our past shows that the United States always finds opportunity and that will open the door for more innovation. As a firm, we have to ensure that we are well-positioned to grasp those opportunities. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www2.colliers.com/en/experts/bob-mathews

 

 

Florida and Pennsylvania unemployment claims level off as economies slowly reopen

Florida and Pennsylvania unemployment claims level off as economies slowly reopen

By: Beatrice Silva 

3 min read June 2020 — As of June 5, most of Florida has taken the next step of reopening the economy that was devastated by COVID-19. Unemployment figures are starting to level off as businesses slowly start to open up again. On June 6, the U.S. Department of Labor saw its lowest figure for new unemployment claims since March 26. However, the sunshine state’s economy isn’t in the clear just yet. Florida has the fourth highest unemployment claims in the U.S. To make matters worse, some Floridans are still struggling to collect their unemployment benefits. 

 

 Since March 15, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has paid out $1.5 billion in state claims and another $4.6 billion in federal unemployment benefits. Approved applicants should be getting $600 per week from federal benefits plus the state’s additional $275 weekly benefits. Unfortunately, issues resulting from an influx of people filing for benefits has caused the Florida DEO’s website to crash on multiple occasions. On April 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis placed Jonathan Satter, Florida Department of Management Services secretary, in charge of fixing the state’s unemployment benefits system. As a result, a new mobile-friendly website was born. People can now submit an application on the new website if they don’t currently have an open unemployment benefits claim on file. 

 

Different markets were hit particularly hard by the COVID related economic slowdown. The transportation and hospitality sectors are expected to take the longest to get back on their feet.

“There are a couple of key industries that will be greatly impacted the longer this goes, especially tourism and real estate. On the positive side, there is a significant number of secondary markets in Florida. Traveling overseas will likely not be as popular in the next couple of years, speaking well for these secondary markets. Challenges do drive opportunities and developers might take cues from the latter. Hospitality and tourism will continue to suffer and will likely require continuous stimuli the longer this continues,” said Blain Heckaman, CEO for Kaufman Rossin in an interview with Invest: Miami. 

 

Florida isn’t the only state feeling economic pressure as a result of COVID-19. Northeastern regions of the United States that were hit particularly hard by the virus, like Pennsylvania and New York, have also started reopening nonessential businesses in an effort to jumpstart the economy. Since March 15, the Unemployment Compensation department has paid over $16.4 billion in state and federal unemployment compensation benefits, according to Pennsylvania’s government website. The state is also preparing to activate an unemployment program that would extend benefits for up to 13 more weeks for eligible individuals. The last time Pennsylvania initiated the extended benefits program was during the fallout from the Great Recession in 2009.

 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is taking a three-phase, regional approach to reopening the state. The system consists of red, yellow and green phases that are then applied to individual counties. Red is the most restrictive and green is the least. On June 5, Wolf allowed 34 counties to transition into the green phase. Although most restrictions are lifted during this final phase, people are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines. Businesses like gyms, hair salons and indoor recreation centers that remained closed in the yellow phase can start to reopen at 75 percent occupancy. There are still 33 Pennsylvania counties in the yellow phase, which serves the purpose of slowly powering up the economy while still trying to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

 

Gov. Wolf has publicly voiced his desire for Pennsylvania to reopen. However, he warns business owners not to open up too early. “By opening before the CDC evidence suggests you’re taking undue risks with the safety of your customers. That’s not only morally wrong, it’s also really bad business. Businesses that do follow the whims of local politicians and ignore the law and the welfare of their customers will probably find themselves uninsured because insurance does not cover things that happen to businesses breaking the law,” Wolf said during a press conference. 

 

To learn more visit…

 

https://kaufmanrossin.com/

 

https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2020/06/15/florida-unemployment-benefits-update

 

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article243450076.html?

 

https://www.pa.gov/guides/unemployment-benefits/

 

 

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 Many of the nation’s largest capital operators are increasingly moving headquarters and operations to South Florida to take advantage of the business and tax advantages available in the Sunshine State. As a result, the region is starting to transform its reputation as a playground to be recognized as an environment for serious business, Mary Beth Tarter, the regional head of tax advisory and accounting services firm Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone, told Invest: Palm Beach.

 

What main services does the firm provide in the Florida market?

We are a tax advisory and accounting firm. Our clients are primarily in the financial services industry, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and distressed debt. We also do a lot of commercial real estate. 

 

I work on the individual side of the practice, so I work with fund principals and fund managers, helping with compliance and advisory. We look at their estate planning, trust, gifts, private foundations, all those tools that the high-net-worth group uses.

 

We’ve been here for three years, and we expect to continue growing, to continue expanding our staff within the next six to eight months.

 

What are the particular opportunities that South Florida offers for the kind of clients your firm specializes in?

 

Our firm has always had connectivity to South Florida, because the ultra-high-net-worth community will have vacation homes here. But it really started in 2017, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the most sweeping tax law change we’ve had since 1986. Hedge funds and private equity funds could stand to lose millions because of the deductions that were not allowed at the individual level, even at the partnership level. It got to the point where some of them looked at it very analytically, and recognized that moving to Florida could save them $1 million a year because of the tax situation, and so they moved.

 

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I think our firm handled more residency planning for our clients than we did in the previous 24 years. Many of them did it from an analytical standpoint, while for others, it was just the impetus that they needed: they decided that now was the time.

 

The wonderful part of already having connectivity is that it was seamless for our clients. Now we are here, boots on the ground, and that’s very important for us. They expect a certain level of service and we did not want any disruption to that.

 

People are also starting to recognize that Florida is not just a playground. This is a very serious business area as well. The median age of people moving down here is younger, and that speaks tremendously to the local commerce, the lifestyles that people want for their families, for their businesses. There are so many companies relocating or expanding down here, and of course, taking advantage of the fact that it is, in a lot of cases, tax driven.

 

Has that recognition created a new environment for investors in Florida?

 

It has. New York is rebalancing its budget because Carl Icahn is moving to Miami. New Jersey is rebalancing its budget because David Tepper left. They are coming to Miami to be part of the hedge fund community there, which is amazing.

 

We’ve actually just created another division, with a gentleman who has been in the hedge fund community for the last 25 years. He is Latin by birth and is looking to expand and help those startup funds, even those that are coming from Latin America as well. A big part of our clientele also has international connectivity.

 

How do you see the reactivation of the commercial real estate industry after COVID-19 is left in the rear-view mirror?

 

I think the real estate industry is going to be a little stalled until people can get outside again. Then they are going to start taking advantage of the opportunities they have been denied over the last couple of months. I truly believe that for anybody who has the available cash, for the most part, our clients among them, we will see an increase of activity in both commercial and residential real estate because you weren’t allowed to do it. 

 

All companies, not just those in commercial real estate, need to be really thoughtful about what they do in the future, especially those people who have taken the stimulus loans, such as the PPP loans. You have certain requirements that you have to certify in order to go through the application process, but I also believe there’s going to be heavy oversight to limit the potential of fraud.

 

This has forced a lot of people to pivot their business model, and I think that some of the things that people have come up with are amazing, and a true credit to the ingenuity of the entrepreneur. I see nothing but positives after this is done. I really don’t see any negatives.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://www.flsv.com/

Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Techies, entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Peach State and beyond are curious to explore the possibilities found in Gwinnett County’s newest and largest city. Officially incorporated in 2012, the city of Peachtree Corners and it’s Curiosity Lab, a publicly funded economic development initiative, is drawing the attention of tech-related professionals looking to test their ideas and projects at the lab’s 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle testing track and 25,000-square-foot innovation center.  

 

 

Peachtree Corners, which boasts a growing population of more than 43,000 residents, is quickly reaping the fruits of its calculated investments in the tech sector, while simultaneously testing and perfecting the future of smart city technologies.

In May, the city announced the launch of a fleet of the world’s first tele-operated e-scooters to operate on public streets. Technology companies Tortoise and Go X came to Curiosity Lab to perfect their vision of offering an e-scooter that could, through the use of Tortoise’s remote tele-operators, respond to a customer’s call to action, or reposition itself to a parking spot. Peachtree Corners has been working with the two tech companies to revolutionize city e-scooter mobility, while solving complications related to finding an e-scooter and their return to home base for appropriate overnight parking and charging. In other words, no more e-scooters left haphazardly in the middle of a sidewalk because they’ll park themselves. 

The e-scooters will operate in the city’s Technology Park Atlanta, a 500-acre technology park with more than 7,000 employees that is also home to Curiosity Lab. The tele-operated e-scooters will be available for use by the general public. The e-scooters’ initial pilot will run for six months and marks the first time that tele-operated e-scooters are deployed on public streets.

“We are excited to showcase this innovative technology,” Mayor Mike Mason said, according to a city press release. “It’s another opportunity for the city to look beyond traditional transportation and seek innovative ways to improve mobility. We invite our citizens and the business community to see and experience this new technology.” 

Tortoise and Go X’s e-scooters are the latest vehicles to roll through Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track. Last fall, Olli, the self-driving shuttle designed and built by Local Motors, began operating along the city’s 1.5-mile testing track, which offers companies a facility to test emerging technologies in a real-world environment. 

“An important goal for us was to ensure that residents can enjoy the convenience of using e-scooters, right here in Peachtree Corners,” said City Manager Brian Johnson, according to a city press release. “As a reflection of our commitment to making cities smarter, we didn’t hesitate to partner with Tortoise to launch the first-ever fleet of self-driving e-scooters for public use. We are extremely pleased to be a partner in this innovative and world-changing technology.” 

In March, Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track and smart city laboratory won the transportation category in the third annual IDC Smart Cities North America Awards (SCNAA) for its connected and autonomous vehicles project. “Curiosity Lab is a unique economic development investment that helps advance new technologies and grow the employment base of the city,” said Curiosity Lab’s Executive Director Betsy Plattenburg, according to a city press release. “We have had interest in testing from both startups and Fortune 500 companies,” she said.

To learn more, visit:

https://www.curiositylabptc.com/

https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/home/showdocument?id=7916

https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/home/showdocument?id=8318

 

 

Spotlight On: David Dymecki, Managing Director, Perkins and Will

Spotlight On: David Dymecki, Managing Director, Perkins and Will

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Architectural design studio Perkins and Will’s Atlanta office is keeping busy with work in the city’s many Opportunity Zones, and sees a growing tendency toward mixed-use facilities combining pre–COVID 19 entertainment and hospitality, retail, commercial and sports and recreation/fitness, Managing Director David Dymecki said in an interview with Focus: Atlanta. 

 

How would you describe your smart development approach to your products?

The way we approach development in the city and the region is through four major focus areas. A focus on the local context in each of our projects. Whether it’s Downtown, Westside or Buckhead, place and context is always at the forefront of our minds. A focus on people and experience: human-centered design with deliberate strategies and solutions focused on program, scale, and materials. A focus on living design: work that is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, regenerative, and addresses the well-being of the community. A focus on partnership: we are first and foremost partners with our clients and the cities in which we work; we are strategic thinkers, designers, and implementers. 

 

Focusing on these four areas has served us well before and during this COVID 19 environment, where our approach as always has been one of renewal and regeneration. This focus has served our clients, our communities, and our cities well. With a simplified language and visual communications tools, our approach makes these complex, interdependent issues easier to understand and implement.

 

Furthermore, our experience on a range of project types and design scales allows us to bring together diverse points of view to bring forth the appropriate big ideas, special details and long-range solutions. Our systems thinking has allowed us to be agile to address the design or the process that needs to change based on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Our work includes community-enhancing projects of adaptive re-use and mixed use, which incorporate residential, office, retail, hospitality, transportation and even learning, health, sports and recreation. We are still seeing growth in Atlanta in these community-focused projects. 

 

What is the studio’s approach to sports architecture?

We’ve been fortunate to grow a thriving national sports practice. My background has always been in sports architecture, focused primarily on the collegiate marketplace. We started the practice 10 years ago and have grown our sports and recreation practice nationally and internationally. We consistently rank among the Top10 sports/recreation/entertainment firms in the country.

 

Regionally, our Atlanta and Denver studios are working with the city of Savannah to design a new mixed-use entertainment venue. In addition to the arena, we’re working with city leadership to master plan Savannah’s Canal District, an exciting opportunity to re-vitalize an historic part of the city. Closer to Atlanta, we’ve recently completed a new wellness center for Piedmont Healthcare System. 

 

One trend we’re experiencing in the marketplace locally, regionally and nationally is the integration of healthcare, recreation, collegiate and professional sports, and well-being;  partnerships between healthcare, professional sports, colleges and universities, and cities. We see this as a growing market, a trend that will continue in the future.

 

What development advantages come from Opportunity Zones in the area?

 

Established in 2017, Opportunity Zones are a community and economic development tool that aim to drive long-term private investment into underserved communities throughout the country. The program works to encourage developers to invest in local business, real estate and development projects in exchange for a reduction in their tax obligations. Atlanta has more than 25 Opportunity Zones, many of them are in the south and western portions of the city. As strategists and designers, we’re active in a few of the zones across the city, helping our clients realize positive impacts for our local communities and developer clients. We’ve also created partnership opportunities for our university and developer clients to achieve multidimensional impacts that benefit both “town and gown.” These areas of the city are poised for investment, long-term growth, community engagement, and will be catalysts for change.

 

After the COVID-19 crisis is over, do you see changes to the way you do your work in terms of hygiene measures, social distancing and the like?

 

I believe we will learn a lot about flexibility, agility, working from home and work-life balance in the upcoming months. We are going to evaluate the needs related to workspace, learning environments, retail, hospitality, transportation, and public infrastructure and amenities. How people get to and from work, in and out of our urban centers or attend sporting events will change in the short term and long term. I believe we’ll see a renewed entrepreneurial spirit, and new business ventures as a result of social distancing and COVID-19. We’re excited about the future impact design and our profession will have on new ideas and initiatives. 

 

COVID-19 is not the first global pandemic, it’s the just the first of modern society. We’ve packed rapid transformational ideas into the past 10 weeks that in the past has taken 10 years. A few transformations rising are to the top of our business: flexibility and overlay planning. Large sporting venues and events have been addressing flexibility and overlay for years. When you design the overlay, you’re designing the venue for everyday use, but you’re also planning for the two to four weeks of overlay features and program to accommodate the media, a larger influx of fans, expanded retail and hospitality, and back of house service. You’re designing flexibility and agility for everyday, gameday, and special events. I believe we’ll see a similar approach to other buildings, such as learning environments, retail, cultural venues and commercial real estate.

 

I doubt we’ll redesign every building, it’s not feasible or affordable, nor entirely relevant to how people will use and occupy space in the long term. I think we are going to look at the overlay scenario. What we’re hearing from clients in several markets is to not over-correct based on the current health situation.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://perkinswill.com/person/david-dymecki/