Metro Atlanta. 4.4 million people. Seventy-one cities. Ten counties. Three main interstate highways. Two major railroads with intermodal facilities. The busiest airport in the world. A burgeoning bicycle-pedestrian presence. Seventy-one thousand new jobs created in 2015. And one agency to coordinate far-reaching plans that affect it all.
The Atlanta Regional Commission dates back to 1947. It was then designated as the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and tasked with setting up coordinated programs for the city of Atlanta and
DeKalb and Fulton counties. Its responsibilities have since been expanded to include Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties as well.
In its 2016 annual report, the ARC listed a myriad of accomplishments, programs, and goals. These include a water resource management system that has reduced total use by 10 percent since 2001, even as the population has grown by more than 1 million; an ambitious partnership with Georgia State University and local developers to renew and repurpose Turner Field into a multi-use complex that will include student housing, classroom space and a college football stadium; and an educational initiative, Learn4Life, that is seeking to establish a cradle-to-career approach to improve workforce readiness and enhance student achievement.
Still, amid all this forward focus, one commercial sector of the city maintains its strong link to the past. “Since its founding in the mid-19th century, Atlanta has been a distribution hub,” said Stephen W. Grable, executive vice president of the Supply Chain & Logistics Solution Team of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a firm that specializes in real estate and investment management.
It started in the 1840s with railroads, a cotton-centric connection to the Southeast. And today, railroads remain important. CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern handle about 25 percent of the freight tonnage in Metro Atlanta. But the big player, according to statistics compiled by the ARC, is trucking. “Over 70,000 truckloads travel annually between Atlanta and the Port of Savannah,” a 2016 report stated.
The Interstate-16, Interstate-75 connection to the expansive Florida market is a key, said Grable. A little further up Interstate-75, Henry County has become a logistics “submarket” of its own. At 240 or so miles from Savannah, it’s pretty much at the limit a driver can cover within one work shift.
“Companies want to stay in Henry,” said Grable. From there, you can go south to Florida, or north to connect with interstates 20 and 85. Upscale retailer Tory Burch has leased a 753,000-square-foot distribution center in Henry County, and home furnishings giant Wayfair will locate a center there as well. And, the Luxottica Group, a leading eyewear designer, manufacturer and distributor, announced earlier this year that it’s expanding its Henry County facility, a move that will create 1,000 jobs.
Other recent major Atlanta-area projects include:
- ASOS, a British online fashion company, plans to open an e-commerce fulfillment center in Union City that is expected to lead to 1,600 jobs;
- OneTrust, a privacy management software company, aims to expand its Fulton County operation, creating 500 jobs;
- The Boston Consulting Group, a global management firm, plans to open a new regional support center in Fulton County, generating 200 jobs;
- And Carcoustics, an automotive industry supplier, will invest in a new Gwinnett County facility, adding 200 jobs.