Preparing Atlanta’s students for careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math read more
By Christina Mimms
Atlanta has long been considered the capital of the South. It is a cultural hub as well as a thriving business center. It’s an education epicenter and a geographically desirable destination. It’s residential, commercial, industrial and rural, all at the same time. People travel to Atlanta and through Atlanta every day, and there’s no escaping the allure or the necessity of the ATL. In fact, anyone who has lived in metro Atlanta for any length of time knows that the city is home to a wide array of notable assets. However, there are five particular attributes that really put Atlanta and its surrounding areas on the map, making the city one of the country’s top five moving destinations, according to Penske Truck Rental. Here, KNOWAtlanta Magazine looks the top five assets that give Atlanta a major advantage for relocators, residents, visitors and everyone in between.
The Business Community
In addition to the 31 Fortune 500 and 1000 companies headquartered in Atlanta, the metro area is home to more than 330 global and North American headquarters, with more relocating every year, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The city serves as a hub for supply chain and manufacturing, creative industries, technology (including fintech and cleantech), life sciences and healthcare. The city also draws up-and-comers on a regular basis; in fact, more than 200 startup companies have planted their roots in Atlanta over the last number of years. The growing fintech industry, for example, employs more than 42,000 professionals in 200 companies in Atlanta and generates annual revenues of $42 billion in mobile banking, investing, digital lending and payment processing services.
In recent years, Georgia also has become known as the number one state for film production, home to three million square feet of sound stages with a total of seven million square feet estimated by 2024. Georgia offers one of the most aggressive tax rebates of any state in the U.S. for film productions, as well as relatively mild weather and readily available transportation, all of which appeal greatly to Hollywood producers. They can relocate their actors for a short time and often hire local crew members for set building and other tasks. “The Walking Dead,” “Stranger Things” and “Avengers: Endgame” are just a few of the television shows and movies proudly filmed in Georgia.
Jobs across all industries keep the state’s unemployment rate at a low 2.9 percent, well below the national average of 3.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s largest employers are Delta, Home Depot, UPS and Randstad North America. Additionally, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is recognized as the world’s busiest airport and allows more than 110 million passengers each year take advantage of travel opportunities through the city, employs 63,000 workers in 383,000 jobs, creating $51.5 billion in economic impact for metro Atlanta, according to Aviation Pros.
The Cost of Living
The Council for Community and Economic Research reveals that Atlanta ranks 16th on the list of top 25 largest metros for cost of living, just below Las Vegas and right above Pittsburgh. New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Boston round out the top five. Atlanta’s cost of living is just slightly higher than the national average—about 1.8 percent higher. When compared to that of New York or San Francisco, which are 149 percent and 96 percent higher than the national average, respectively, Atlanta is one of the most attractive locales financially for both individuals and families. Those figures undoubtedly play a major role in the number of transplants who continue to move to Atlanta from the West Coast and the Northeast each year.
Housing costs in the metro area also attract many coming from larger markets. The May 2023 Market Brief, compiled by First Multiple Listing Service, provides a regionally focused synopsis of monthly sales and home prices for residential properties in 11 of Metro Atlanta’s counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Fayette, Paulding and Rockdale. In May of 2023, the number of residential sales totaled 5,486. The average and median sales prices continued to outpace 2022’s figures with positive gains; the median sales price in May was $420,000, a decrease of 2.3 percent from May 2022, while the average sales price was $523,500, up 1.2 percent. While some residents may have seen increasing home sale prices in their neighborhoods, the state’s housing costs actually run 26 percent lower than the national average, according to Bankrate.com.
For those who aren’t quite ready to purchase a home, the average rent in Atlanta is between $1,790 and $2,473 depending on the size of the rental unit. Studio apartments saw rents rise the most over the past year—around eight percent—while larger apartments saw shrinkage in rental costs during that time.
In terms of taxes, Georgia has a graduated state income tax rate that ranges from one percent to 5.75 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. With a four percent sales tax and a max local sales tax of five percent, the state’s tax system ranks 32nd on the State Business Tax Climate Index. Additional daily costs, such as food, place Georgia in the middle compared to the rest of the country; local food costs are slightly lower (four percent) than the national average. In 2022, a family of four spent an average of $9,507 on food, assuming all food was purchased at grocery stores and prepared at home.
The Educational Opportunities
According to Education Week, Georgia’s K-12 education system ranks number one in the nation in making the connection between early learning, higher education and the working world. With a highly ranked public school system and a wide array of private school options, there is something for every family’s need. That extends to higher education as well. In fact, the metro area gives 250,000 students access to 57 colleges and universities. Atlanta has the seventh highest level of student enrollment among America’s largest urban areas, according to the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education, and has been ranked as the number one large college city in America, as well as the number two metro area for quality of engineering universities. Some of the area’s colleges include Agnes Scott College, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University (with seven campuses throughout the area), Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, Oglethorpe University, Savannah College of Art & Design and Spelman College.
Each college campus offers a different vibe, from the quaint neighborhoods of Druid Hills surrounding Emory or the hip Midtown scene near Georgia Tech to the many offerings for foodies and book lovers in Decatur near Agnes Scott. On-campus and rental housing is available for students throughout the metro area, along with ample sports and entertainment options, making it a great place to both live and study.
Any field of study is available on Atlanta college campuses, whether it is engineering, art, business, law or medicine. With myriad large companies located in the city and surrounding areas, students also can pursue internships or co-op work experiences while they continue their college coursework. Those opportunities allow them to create connections for their future careers. As APD Urban Planning notes, 77 percent of college graduates in metro Atlanta decide to stay and pursue their professions with companies located in the area. Only New York outpaces Atlanta in this arena.
The Sports Scene
With Atlanta being recognized as one of only 14 cities in the country to host four or more major sports teams, it’s no wonder why sports enthusiasts choose to call the city home. Atlantans have the chance to show their support for professional teams including the Atlanta Braves (baseball), the Atlanta Falcons (football), Atlanta United (soccer), the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Dream (basketball). Most recently, professional volleyball has come to town with the Atlanta Vibe. Additionally, two minor league teams—the Gwinnett Stripers (baseball) and the Gwinnett Gladiators (ice hockey)—make their home in the metro as well. These various teams play at facilities across the metro area, from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta to Truist Park in Cobb County and Gas South Arena in Duluth. The Falcons alone averaged 69,583 in attendance in 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, while the Braves welcomed 38,641 during their season at Truist Park.
Opportunities to enjoy sports is not limited to professionals in Atlanta. Sports recreation is one of the area’s most beloved opportunities, particularly when it comes to tennis. The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) boasts 80,000 members, while the U.S. Tennis Association has 40,000 adult members in Georgia who play on 441 tennis court locations throughout the city.
For those who prefer golf over tennis, there are 23 golf courses in the City of Atlanta alone, with 35 more courses (both public and private) within a 20-mile radius. Golf clubs in the area, including East Lake Golf Club, regularly host golf events, and the PGA Tour Championship at the East Lake in August attracts spectators from all over to see the world’s top professional players in action.
Runners can take their pick from trails all around the city, from the Beltline to Piedmont Park to the Silver Comet Trail. While the Peachtree Road Race draws local and international guests, runners don’t have to wait until July for a major competition. In September alone, more than 30 race events are scheduled around town. And athletes of all levels can also participate in recreational leagues for flag football, softball, soccer, basketball, kickball, volleyball, pickleball, Ultimate Frisbee and even cornhole. The Atlanta Sport & Social Club is a great place to start to find all types of offerings.
Atlanta’s geographic location is another asset that allows people to make their permanent home within the city or surrounding areas while having the option to travel to other locations with ease. To start, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the home base of Delta Air Lines, offers nonstop flights to more than 160 domestic and over 75 international destinations. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. metros are within a two-hour flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Yet, locals don’t even have to hop on an airplane to get to some of the most coveted locales in both the region and the entire country.
There are more than 30 lakes around Atlanta, giving residents many places to spend a day or a long weekend boating or fishing. For some, adding a second home on a lakefront provides the opportunity for lake life at any time, plus the potential for rental income. Also, tubing down the Chattahoochee River is a rite of passage for many. Naturally, others may prefer larger bodies of water. Fortunately, beach lovers can zip to the Georgia coast in fewer than five hours or to the Florida panhandle in less than six. Areas such as Tybee Island, Hilton Head and Seaside remain popular destinations for Georgians to visit for a weekend or longer to enjoy golf, tennis, boating and much more.
When the weather turns crisp, the mountain call metro Atlantans. North Georgia’s trails and the allure of fall colors beckon, and a short two-hour drive can transport locals to nearby Blue Ridge, Brasstown Bald or even Chattanooga, Tennessee, to enjoy beautiful views, hiking and biking trails aplenty and clean mountain air. These locations also host a wide variety of festivals throughout the year, with the fall season being one of the best times to partake of these fun and family-friendly local events.
If city vacations are more appealing, Atlanta has some excellent nearby neighbors with their own cultural, athletic and recreational offerings. Nashville is within three hours and Jacksonville within six. To the west, locals easily can get to Birmingham and Huntsville; to the east, a drive to Savannah or Charleston in five to six hours allows for a quick weekend getaway. Heading north leads travelers to Asheville, only a three-hour drive away. Of course, wherever an Atlanta resident goes, the metro area always calls them home.