At the final 2017 quarterly meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Nonprofit CEO Roundtable, Chamber economist Tom Cunningham gave an interesting overview of the region’s economy. That overview tells a story about Atlanta that puts into perspective the Chamber’s ChooseATL campaign in promoting metro Atlanta as a destination for millennials.
The metro Atlanta economy, which encompasses 29 counties in North Georgia (which is 20 percent of the geographical area of the state, which is also the largest state in land area east of the Mississippi River), is quite large. “It’s bigger than the economy of Ireland, but a little smaller than that of Austria,” Cunnningham said.
Cunningham added a regional and national perspective to the global comparison. Metro Atlanta attained its economic strength during the last 40 years when, going back to the 1960s, Atlanta was roughly the size of Birmingham, Ala. and several other cities in the Southeast. Those cities, including Nashville and Charlotte, were competing to be the “capital” of the Southeast. Atlanta won out for a variety of reasons.
Not only in the ensuing years did metro Atlanta outpace the growth of its competing regional cities, it grew systematically faster than the rest of the country. During this growth spurt, as people from around the country moved to metro Atlanta, the city lost its small town Southern feel. As a result, the city and the metro area began to look a lot like the rest of the United States in their employment and industrial composition. While the region is a big place and a big player in the regional, national and global economy, no one industry powers the metro Atlanta economy. It’s a very diversified economy with major strengths in supply chain, health IT, mobility, cybersecurity, Fintech and transportation.
The region created so many jobs in these and other sectors that it found itself facing another problem. More jobs were being created than there are people to fill them. “In-migration dried up after the recession,” Cunningham pointed out. “It just began picking up about a year ago,” he added.
The Chamber’s ChooseATL program is an effort to bolster that in-migration. ChooseATL is dedicated to attracting and retaining talent by showcasing Atlanta's lifestyle and culture, evolving perceptions, and engaging the next generation in building a community longtime and new Atlantans are all proud to call home. The vision is to make Atlanta the most promising global metro where emerging talent can create the lives, careers, and impact they want in order to make their mark on the world.
Cunningham put an interesting spin on how millennials might ChooseATL. People of a certain age (think baby boomers), he said, remember when companies determined where people would live. There was tiime when people wanted to work for a certain company and they would move to the town or city where the company was located. Then, if the company transferred them, they would move to wherever they were being relocated.
Now, Cunningham said, millennials decide where they want to live for the amenities of the town, city or region. They move there for those reasons and then look for a job. For many millennials, part of what attracts them to a city is the opportunity to volunteer in various capacities.
Metro Atlanta nonprofit community is a magnet for recruiting people – and fast-growing companies – with this 21st century outlook on life. Georgia is home to 42,000 registered nonprofits, including four of the top 20 U.S. nonprofits and 15 of the top 400 U.S. nonprofits. Major nonprofits in Georgia include the Task Force for Global Health, the National Christian Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the American Cancer Society, CARE, In Touch Ministries and many others. The 50 largest nonprofit organizations in metro Atlanta employ 7,500 people fulltime and serve 2.5 billion people worldwide.
The challenge for the for-profit and nonprofit communities, Cunninghan said, is not that we might run out of people to fill jobs. It’s bringing enough millennials to metro Atlanta to fill the jobs that are being created. Here’s hoping they ChooseATL!