The sun came up and another company has decided to move its headquarters next to a MARTA station – what else is new?
Insight Global, a staffing company for Fortune 500 companies across the United States and Canada, has decided to move 800 employees into a new, 16-story building to be built between Perimeter Mall and the Dunwoody MARTA station. There has been a lot of talk over the last year of plans to build a high-rise here on the eastern side of the station, now they have a tenant. State Farm is currently building the second of its four high-rises on its new campus across Hammond Drive from the Dunwoody MARTA station. Their first building includes a walkway over Hammond Drive to the station. And there is already talk of more high-rises that could go up along the western side of the MARTA station.
It is common knowledge that most company executives believe that to stay competitive for the future workforce, they need to locate near mass transit. Every major corporate move to the Atlanta area has been at or near a MARTA station. Along with State Farm, Mercedes-Benz is building its North American headquarters down the street from the Sandy Springs MARTA station. NCR Corp. just moved its large headquarters from Duluth to intown Atlanta to be near mass transit.
According to a recent article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Hala Moddelmog attributed the recent corporate relocations, in part, because of MARTA.
“They would not have come to this market if it had not been for MARTA,” she said.
As the Georgia General Assembly heads into session, transit and expansion of MARTA is something sure to be a hot topic. Only in the last couple of years has the Legislature seen expansion of the system as an issue they need to be concerned with. These corporate relocations have made it more acceptable for legislatures from outside of the Metro Atlanta area to be open to conversation about setting aside money for MARTA expansion.
State Sen. Brandon Beach, who chaired the Transportation Committee in the Senate last year, said one of the big issues this year will be to try to bring Gwinnett and Cobb Counties together with Fulton, Dekalb and Clayton counties in funding MARTA. Gwinnett and Cobb have their own transit bus systems independent of MARTA. Even though their systems drop riders off into the MARTA system, they do not help fund it. Bringing Cobb and Gwinnett into the MARTA system would be a huge plus for transit in Metro Atlanta.
In North Fulton, debate continues about what an expansion of mass transit would look like. Many officials seem warm to the idea of expanding rail up to Holcomb Bridge Road. But there is little consensus to go farther north. State Sen. John Albers is preaching another concept: autonomous vehicles and buses. Rail expansion is expensive and would take 5 to 10 years to build. By that time, Albers says autonomous vehicles will be in use and residents will be more used to taking Uber and Lyft. Instead of spending the billions of dollars it would take for full-rail expansion, a fraction of that money could be used to install a state-of-the-art system of autonomous buses, he argues.
With NCR’s move intown, North Fulton officials are taking the issue of mass transit expansion seriously. I would not be surprised to see a final plan released over the next year or two.