Business consulting giant Accenture will announce on Wednesday it is adding more than 500 largely-tech related jobs in Atlanta over the next few years, a decision that comes as the state gears up for what might be its largest ever economic development push to win the second headquarters for Amazon.
The planned expansion of Accenture’s operations at Technology Square in Midtown will be announced at a press conference Wednesday with Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, several people with direct knowledge of the situation, but who are not authorized to comment on the record, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Two of the sources said the jobs number could rise to more than 800.
The Accenture project would be the latest in a string of high-profile technology jobs announcements for the city and state, and it coincides with a celebratory press conference on Tuesday in which Deal touted a record-breaking year for the state’s economic development team.
Landing another major tech deal in Accenture is a further sign of vibrancy for the region’s tech scene.
But Atlanta and Georgia will need an unprecedented lobbying effort to win Amazon’s second headquarters, a once-in-a-generation competition which promises to bring $5 billion in investment and 50,000 corporate and technology jobs with an average salary of $100,000 to the city that wins the sweepstakes.
State and city officials hope Accenture’s expansion in Atlanta gives the region a headstart. The exact nature of the jobs at Accenture are unknown, though they are expected to be relatively high-paying gigs. The firm didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Accenture is a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and other major firms. The company helps others develop new technology and streamline and manage their businesses. It employs software designers and other tech grads in addition to professionals with business degrees.
Accenture is one of a string of blue-chip companies that have made significant software development jobs announcements in metro Atlanta over the last few years. Honeywell, Sage Software, Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, NCR and GE Digital have all expanded their operations in the city.
Each cited the region’s growth and proximity to Georgia Tech and its engineering programs as a key factor in their decisions. Most also located their offices near MARTA to take aim at one of the city’s biggest deficits: congestion and limited transit connectivity.
Governments across North America are expected to make their pitches to Amazon by mid-October with a decision coming next year.
With an eye toward the pitch for Amazon and the project known as HQ2, political leaders are already calling for renewed debate in next year’s Legislature that could lead to a new governance structure to replace the alphabet soup of agencies that now provide mass transit for the region. Whether future promises to Amazon or other big corporate expansions could lead to action in next year’s session isn’t yet clear.
“These solutions can’t be just in the city. It has to be regionally-connected,” said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, among the leading candidates for mayor. “We have a lot of work in that area. And if we can show where there’s a significant investment that’s already been committed – and that the rest of the region can come along – that can help us.”
Some also hope it could pave the way for regular state funding of mass transit operations.
“A public commitment for the state to fund transit would help our chances,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb of DeKalb. “Transit is one of the keys to competitiveness and a criteria for HQ2. It’s time.”
Cathy Woolard, another of the major candidates for Atlanta mayor, said Amazon doesn’t need financial incentives but more a partner “in infrastructure development that would work for the whole city, particularly on transportation.”
“The flip side of things is every city that has had massive growth in the tech industry and a boom in high-paying jobs has ended up developing a complete (housing) affordability nightmare,” she said. “What I want to do with Amazon is really partner on transportation, but also work with them to mitigate the affordability issue in advance.”
The Amazon in the room
There was no mention of the Accenture deal at Tuesday’s economic development event at Honeywell’s new North American Software Center in Midtown, but there was plenty of talk about Amazon’s prospects after the event.
“We have some amazing assets to sell. That’s what Honeywell bought,” said Pat Wilson, the state’s chief recruiter and the commissioner of the Department of Economic Development. “All of that adds up to a great story, whether you are an Amazon or you’re an automaker or you are a distribution center. All that adds up to a great equation for Georgia.”
The governor said in the 12 months ended in June, the state economic development department helped recruit business expansions and relocations that will lead to more than 30,000 new jobs and a record $6.3 billion in investments across the state. Among them was Honeywell, which announced plans last October to build the Midtown software center that will eventually hold more than 800 jobs.
The roster of jobs wins notched by the state in fiscal year 2017 include GE Digital (250 jobs), an Anthem software center (1,800 jobs), a Sentury Tire factory (1,000-plus jobs) and NCR (1,800 jobs). Deal said about 80 percent of the total project announcements were outside metro Atlanta.
“I know numbers are sometimes boring,” Deal said. “But if you’re in the right spirit these numbers will be as meaningful to you as they are to me and I think to many of the citizens of Georgia. The lives of the citizens of Georgia are represented in the numbers we’re talking about.”
Terrence Hahn, president of Honeywell’s home and building technologies division, said one reason his firm chose Atlanta was a tight-knit community of other Fortune 500 companies, vendors and suppliers that he said would help his division grow.
“It’s so great to be looking out over Georgia Tech, but also in the distance many other great universities … incubators, tech centers, startups that we are partnering with today and we will partner with in the future,” Hahn said.
Hahn’s words would fit well in a pitch to executives at Amazon. Behind Hahn, Deal and Wilson cracked smiles.
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Accenture at a glance
What: Accenture is one of the world’s largest consulting businesses. It has divisions including consulting, technology, operational management and digital marketing.
Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland
Employees and clients: 411,000 employees with clients in 120 countries.