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.

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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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. 


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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.

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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.

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Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19-related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus.

 In the Peach State, a region known for its sound business environment and one of the first states to reopen its economy, leaders across economic sectors in Atlanta are analyzing the opportunities and possible innovations created as a result of the virus outbreak. For the legal industry, an industry already comfortable with remote work prior to COVID-19, technology is at the forefront of the evolution of the sector’s business model and best practices. “I believe that remote depositions, virtual oral arguments, and maybe even some virtual trials are here to stay,” Holland & Knight Immediate Past Executive Partner J. Allen Maines told Focus: Atlanta. “These new technologies are easy to arrange and the cost-benefit analysis is pretty compelling for implementation, although It may still be necessary to have an in-person interview in order to size up the credibility of key witnesses. The virus has forced law firms to accelerate their adoption of technology and training,” he said. As businesses and law firms embrace the benefits of balancing in-person and remote work, it is likely the need for office space will change as well. “Currently, law firms can do everything electronically and remotely. I would expect law firms will not use the amount of office space that was customary in the past,” Maines said.   

The coronavirus landscape may possibly have positive residual effects related to work-life balance for lawyers and the way in which law firms think about pro bono work. “Hopefully, one permanent change will be a focus on the well-being of lawyers, which has been real positive during this time,” Maines said. “Another positive that has emerged has been an even greater pro bono assistance to the underserved and vulnerable communities. A lot of our clients have employees in the gig and hospitality industry and it has been rewarding to help them get through this period.”

Similarly, for Atlanta’s construction sector, some projects were halted as a result of the initial COVID-19-related shocks, while other projects continued a successful trajectory. “The COVID-19 crisis was completely unpredictable, which has caused significant disruption to the economy,” DPR Construction Business Unit Leader Chris Bontrager told Focus: Atlanta. “We have continued to see success in the healthcare sector through March and April but some of the private commercial work has been put on hold. So far, we have weathered the storm very well,” he said. DPR has been running multiple scenarios to account for the current volatile economic cycle. “No one knows the true impact of COVID-19. Relatively speaking, the Southeast is doing well. The market was very strong prior to COVID-19 and our industry was deemed essential from day one in the Georgia market. We have had some projects that we were unable to start but we have not had any ongoing projects that were shut down,” Bontrager said. “It feels like most contractors will maintain a positive year for 2020 due to a strong backlog going into this recession and the construction community won’t truly feel the recession until the first half of 2021. If the project owners move forward with current plans, we will finish the year at or just below our current business goals.”


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