Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens explains why tech companies are moving to the city on TechCrunch Live

Hi everyone Hi mayor Dickens Um thank you so much for making the time For us today I'm really excited to dive Into this panel so let's get started Um first question you were born and Raised in Atlanta so how have you seen The entrepreneurship ecosystem evolve And change over these past few decades Yeah so you know I was born and raised In Atlanta uh four decades ago Um and to be able to lead a city that I've grown up in and been an Entrepreneur and someone who started my Own business I've been in a technology Space and the Home Goods Furniture space And it's been phenomenal to watch this City grow from a southern Jewel with Charm to now an international City uh One of the epicenters of the tech Ecosystem to my alma mater Georgia tag Going from this small you know Middle-sized school to a large school With a sprawling campus that produces a Significant amount of Technology Talent Across the United States Um and produces a lot of entrepreneurs That are creating fantastic uh Businesses and ideas that are really Some of disruptive and you know changing The way we do business and the way we Communicate and others are just uh super Helpful you know supportive businesses That are really um you know significant In the in the culture today and so uh

Atlanta has just grown to now where uh Everybody lots of companies want to be Here lots of people move here uh and Lots of great uh things are happening so You know the business ecosystem It's a great place to start a business And I'm the chairman of our Board of the Invest Atlanta which is our Economic Development arm that really does loans Does grants does uh you know Opportunities and training and support For small to medium to even large Businesses so it's been fantastic to see Our rapid growth in the city of Atlanta Particularly in the business and Technology space And what do you think happened that has Caused so so much interest in Atlanta And like making so many people want to Come I know it can't just be the remote Work movement like what is attracting All these people and Tech players to Atlanta But I think it started a little while Before just the pandemic and the remote Working environment I mean we have the World's busiest airport so that's one Thing Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world's Busiest and the most efficient airport So you can get from Hartsfield Jackson From Atlanta to 20 to 80 percent of the United States and just a two-hour direct Flight uh which is significant for

Business productivity for leisure travel All across the world you can get from This airport but also our weather is Fantastic our festivals our culture the People are just cool and very um very uh You know hospitable but it's our Academic institutions the hbcus that are Here Morehouse Spellman Clark Morris Brown uh and and others including Georgia Tech Georgia State Emory we have So much talent that is right in this City center that is just you know that 18 to 25 year old space of grad students Undergrads doctor your students it is Happening here so companies are coming Here because they can access all this Great talent from a black perspective Black this is the second highest uh Concentration of black folks with Degrees and bachelor's degrees that are Here in Atlanta so technology uh growth Happens right here because of that Talent and last but not least we're Starting the ecosystem here where you Know Microsoft is coming Google Cisco Visa Airbnb BlackRock Nike Walmart Um you name it they all have a presence Here uh scr 70 of the transactions in The world take place right here in the City of Atlanta with First Data Equifax Uh NCR uh and you name it so I just Think it's uh it's our time it's uh you Know a great place to be where the stars Are really aligning and it's a fun place

To be you can't you can't forget the Fact that uh we're number one in TV and Film With all the hip-hop music r b music and Even you know some country music and Gospel music is produced here so when You come here for a technology job or You come here to start a business you Also are coming into a sport sports and Entertainment culture uh with great Weather and a great airport that is Really undeniable that and you got good City leadership if I must say so myself As the mayor of Atlanta on a legacy of Other great leaders yeah And there's a lot of things that of Course draw people to Atlanta but I'm Also really curious um because Atlanta Is a politically speaking it's a blue City within what is You know historically been somewhat of a Red State Um and so how do you see that tension Um impacting the city's Tech growth Yeah I mean Um I'm glad you pointed that out so you Know the city of Atlanta is definitely a Blue City uh a city that's very much uh You know a darling of the democratic Party of the history of civil rights Being here you know Atlanta gets a lot Of things right in terms of uh Progressive culture but we're inside of A state that's big it's one of the fifth

Largest largest state in the nation it's A huge uh you know significant State and Outside of Atlanta you only got a few Other pockets of blue the rest of it has 10 you know has tended to be red but as We saw in the 2020 election of Biden and The 2021 election of two senators uh Ossoff and Warnock and then the Re-election of War knocking 22 Georgia Has come around and more people are now You know we're kind of purple bluish Bluish green blueish red or purple and I Think that that boasts well for us it Keeps us at the center point of all Political discussions Republicans Democrats otherwise folks want to do Business in Atlanta folks want to do Business in Georgia it's a business Friendly State it's actually listed for The ninth year in a row as the number One place in America to do business the Number one state in Atlanta has a lot to Do with it and our people and so you Know we have the third highest Concentration of Fortune 500 companies Right here in Atlanta so you know you Think about all the cities in the nation You got some New York you got Chicago's Miami great cities La San Francisco uh Denver Etc but you also have this Beautiful city of Atlanta that's the Third highest concentration and we had a Lot of Um companies that just say I just got to

Be in Atlanta because you got what it Takes and businesses uh we we do social Justice well but we also do business Well so and we you know families want to Move here and people want to do uh great Things live out their ambitious goals And dreams here like Um and so that's you know that that Really gives people momentum So you're not worried at all that um Perhaps State politics might make Talent Our Tech Talent lead to more blue States In any way Well um I hope not of course I'm I'm Always watchful of that uh you know We've lived a life where Tech uh Companies take business uh Tech folks You know in Atlanta graduating from Georgia Tech and these colleges you know They used to bleed out to the coast they Would go to Seattle Portland San Francisco L.A or to the Boston New York And those are definitely all you know Clearly strongholds of blue blue uh Democratic liberal cities and states and They would go to those places and that Was where a lot of the academic Talent Was and a lot of corporations are well Now you come to a state like Georgia Come to a city like Atlanta where it's Lower cost so you can fund you know Funders and VCS because you can get a Lot of bang for their Buck by investing In a company in Atlanta you know our

Housing uh it costs are less our cost of Living is less it's not free and you Know it's rising Um but as all things are rising in the Nation due to the inflation but I think That folks are finding you know politics Aside there's there's ways where the City and state work together we work Together on business we get business Right and then there are some other Things that we definitely have Disagreements on certain social issues Um and so we manage those in the city we Fight when we need to fight and disagree When we need to disagree but the things That we agree on which is economic Development business uh think about it We're now the electric vehicle capital Of the United States the electric Batteries are being made here more of Them than anywhere else and all of the You know and and that's Progressive for A state that's read right you got a lot Of interest in making sure that we are Moving forward with technology and auto And automotive industry which typically Was somewhere else in the nation so uh We're doing our part to make sure we uh City and state get along red and blue Find out where we work together and Where we disagree we know where the uh Boxing match is that we we can go there And Duke it out and then go back over Here to the boardroom

And I wanted to talk to you about income Immobility and classism Um just a bit how do you break or how do You help people break into you know this Like growing Tech sector sector in Atlanta when Tech itself is kind of a Bubble Yeah so that's my goal that's my Interest that's why I'm in this is to Make sure that there's equity and Opportunities for everybody if we know That I mean we've known this for the Last 10 to 15 years that the tech sector Is the uh is the sector that has the Highest growth potential and the highest Income uh wealth potential uh and so Making sure that people have more access To these jobs more access to the Training and career paths so that they Could be on a pathway to making money For their family to overcome Generational poverty uh Multi-generational poverty that's why I'm in it you know I was the first in my Family to go to college when I went to Georgia Tech to get an engineering Degree I don't want anybody else to Continue the you know 20 years from now We still have firsts in our families we Want to make sure that we're going on Our second and third generation of People going to college or technical School to get the training to get these Great jobs and to start their own

Businesses even and so what I've been Focused on is you know whether you have A four-year degree or to help people get Certifications in applications the Application development or software Development or even coding and Etc just To be able to uh make a minimum wage Income by being able to manipulate some Reports or you know for a servicenow or Salesforce or AWS uh Um you know any kind of uh language you Know cyber security these things you can Get uh in 16 week or you know 20-week Training programs we're paying you know For the tests we're paying for the Training we're making sure people in Atlanta can get access to these uh 50 60 70 000 jobs with or without a college Degree and that is where we're trying to Take people from poverty to Prosperity Uh to help them be able to be uh Self-sufficient and that's the goal is To constantly train people and that you Know some of that Talent is in college Paying college loans and some of this Talent is working at you know retail Jobs hotel jobs or warehouse jobs that Need to get on this fast track of Technology and so we're trying to help People do that so that we can overcome Generations and generations of uh living You know paycheck to paycheck but now go Into this place where you can have a Great career in technology

Um and it's working it's literally Working at my you know former employer Before I became mayor Tech Bridge we Trained thousands of people right now on Technology careers and they don't have To have college degrees Um and so are other you know startup Organizations and non-profits and For-profits are doing that uh and I Think that's a wonderful thing you know And then the other thing that we're Doing in Atlanta is making sure that We're a customer to startups uh so Startups need Capital they need talent And they need customers as Donnie Beamer My senior technology advisor always says We need those three things and that Talent we have it the the the capital We're getting more of that some of us Coming from the city some of us coming From the investment community and then We need customers the city needs to be a Customer all these Fortune 500s here Need to be customers and when that when We're we have a great ecosystem like That then you'll have more and more People within the economy able to make More money and feed their families and Escape some of the social ills and Poverty And you kind of brought up two points That I wanted to hit on Um first of which was talking about Education

Um we spoke or we all know that there's Like you know a dearth of Black Talent Or not black talent but there's there's Black Talent we just have to you know Get them and so I was going to ask you How do you plan to Leverage The hbcus in The area to create like a more robust Pipeline of Black Talent to filter into This um the tech ecosystem Well that's the beautiful thing about Atlanta you know Um diversity is in our DNA Black Talent Just comes with uh when you move to Atlanta you know or you visit Atlanta You see it every day you see it all over The hbcus the Morehouse spelling you Know AUC they produce talent in the 60s And 50s that were the ones that led the Revolution led the civil rights movement And so now it's time to have them leave You know be a part of and Lead this Digital Revolution you know this this This this uh uh Silver Rights when we Were in civil rights before and so we Are working directly with them Connecting them to uh internships and Jobs with a number of uh technology Companies that are here because what we Have expressed to the corporations And many of them got it already that They they have diversity and equity and Inclusion as part of their mission they Also have social uh responsibility part Of their mission but some of them don't

Always know what to do with that title And what you know they talk about it but Don't always know how to implement it so We're sharing with them that you be in Less trouble when you build your app With black and minority uh designers on The design room floor when they when When you're at the table making Decisions with everybody else then Glitches and problems of oversight Implicit bias and Um you know these things that we've seen Plague some of these Um some of these apps and some of these Corporations that have uh you know you Know I don't want to give names but if You're you know a ride share application Or overnight State uh you know a Short-term rental company some of these You know dilemmas that they face because Um you know the bias of the uh user the Provider is you know would have been Easily seen by a black person being at a Design table being able to say you know If we let this app out like this folks Are gonna be able to discriminate Against some of our users because of Their name or because of their skin Color because of you know this or that And so they won't be able to get a ride Or they won't be able to get a night Stay and so we've now convinced folks That you know diversity is not charity Diversity is good for business uh

Diversity helps you be able to see more Of the customer base be able to make More Revenue save more money be able to Produce better outcomes to be more Transformative and when our folks Graduate from these hbcus will graduate From our local high schools and go on a Technical Career technical colleges uh Right here in Atlanta they come out and They start working for these companies You you have Um diversity built into your already Into your company fiber so when you put Out a product you put out a design it Already is sensitive have been aware of All of the social uh challenges that Could have come up could have come up Have already for the most part been Eliminated And as text presence in Atlanta Continues to grow and how are you Anticipating the ways in which Everything or how it will impact Atlanta's urban planning or other Challenges and issues that might arise As more companies move in as and as more People come into the Aryan region Yeah you know you could become a victim Of your own success and Atlanta has been You know trying to deal with that Challenge we we've seen other cities uh They cost more money uh it costs more Now that they have Prosperity even more Prosperity than they had had even

Assumed so the the revenue that the city Is making is great because more tall Buildings more uh city taxes are Collected because more land is being Used with more Um more you know commercial in in Commercial property income so more sales Taxes so yes it's great but we want to Have balance growth we want to have Growth that is balanced meaning I don't Want just growth we want growth that Considers everybody because we don't Want gentrification and that definitely Not negative gentrification where people That have been long long-term residents Legacy residents of the city of Atlanta People that's been here 30 40 years you Know two three four generations of Atlantis like my family they I can't Keep up with the rising costs of goods And services as well as the cost of Housing and so what we're trying to do Is make sure that we balance out the the Growth that we're getting we're trying To say Hey you know we want everybody to Be able to participate in these jobs how To tap into that untapped Talent how to Make sure that you know we don't import All of our talent from the coasts so I've had conversations with the same Companies that we're talking about That's coming here to get a thought You're doing a thousand jobs in Atlanta 5 000 jobs some have advertised as many

As 10 000 jobs and so what I tell them Is it's great I'm not cutting the ribbon If the goal is for you to import Everybody from uh a high cost area just To come into Atlanta we're going to have To make sure that some 30 40 percent of This thousand employees that you're Going to need or 10 000 employees that They come from the Metro Atlanta area so You don't over upset our ecosystem so That you don't poor Talent of people That can't live off of a quarter million Dollars where they're coming from and Come here to an environment where you Know a hundred thousand dollars you're Living very good why don't we grow a Hundred thousand years from Atlanta why Don't we train people over this year That it's going to take you to build Your building get your facility straight Figure out all that you're doing why Don't we train you know 500 people 400 People whatever the number is so that we Can have you know when I cut the ribbon My folks from you know Atlanta are Moving right into their desk Um versus somebody coming here with a Moving truck and then they got to figure Out Atlanta and meanwhile they just Bought Miss Jones's house for three Times as much as what she you know paid For it I don't want that that's going to Cause us Social Challenges and then We'll be like some other cities where

You Um no one lives in the city they they Live way out and they come in and They're the ones that you know are our Firefighters can't live in the city our Nurses can't afford to live and see our Teachers can't afford to live in the City our hotel uh staff and people that Are our restauranteers you know they Just can't afford to live in the city we Don't want to be that we don't want to Outpace ourselves and and have growth That doesn't include everybody so how to Do that very hard work but you have to State it you have to name it you have to Say it clearly to corporations what's Your local hiring and training plan it's Not that I dislike folks coming you know We're all about being hospitable and Inviting but I just can't I can't sign Off on any incentives for your company To come here if you don't have a local Hiring plan And shortly before this event I did a Call out on social media to round up Some audience questions and after going Through them I'm gonna see if I have Time to ask to but most realistically One Um someone from Twitter wants to know How can Atlanta make free and public Spaces available for the entrepreneurial Ecosystem and what spaces are available For entrepreneurs to co-work in other

Than just the paid co-working spaces Wow that's a good question one I would Probably say it's not enough Um just based on my initial gut reaction To the question Um free is hard these days right I mean You know free space free Wi-Fi free like You know besides the library uh besides You know you can post up at some of our Uh you know Parks and Recreation places Uh City Hall and those places Um but what constitutes say a a Um a shared workspace Um including Printing and all you know Free coffee and you know you're great Um conference rooms and those things a Lot of those come with paid memberships Uh to the subscription-based um Somewhere you know like the Gathering Spot uh the Russell Center Um in Atlanta which are great Phenomenal Black owned places that are fostered a Lot of entrepreneurs but Um you know maybe there might be a space For Um some free uh stuff outside of like I Said our libraries our parks and recs Our community centers Um maybe there's something else that we Can look into uh and help now we have a Lot of you know we have programs we have The the largest free Um women's entrepreneurship program in Atlanta there's a cohort every uh I

Think about every five every six months That's for women entrepreneurs we have 15 going through each each time and it's The largest municipally funded uh Women's initiative so uh for Entrepreneurs and so we we're doing a Great job at that we're at uh Entrepreneur number 75 now so uh stay Tuned for that so that's one that's good And all those women have a space uh they Work as a cohort some are in technology Some are in Home Goods beauty products You name it Um you know hygiene and everything else Health care products so those women are Helping getting a good start because They work with the city of Atlanta maybe We should do more programs like that And I'm gonna try to ask this last Question okay an Atlanta native on Twitter asked during the summer Atlanta Has a tradition with its youth becoming Young entrepreneurs typically through Selling water and are known as the water Kids Um has there been any thoughts on Efforts to convert those kids on the Streets into early tech programs We actually do Um so we we last summer which was my First summer as mayor we actually you Know let me and this is a tough issue Because there's some people that's like Get those kids off the corner from

Selling water lock them up some folks of That you know that that far on that end Like if they keep selling water because There some of them are overly aggressive They're jumping on your car you're Taking your cash out they're taking your Phone I mean that they they went a Little far over the pandemic so we've Reigned that in and said hey young man Young woman you have an entrepreneurial Spirit you're selling water you're Buying it for x and you're selling for Three times ax that's hey that's the American way you just don't have a Business license and you're standing on This on a public right-of-way and you're Dodging cars which is dangerous and the Car people people are the motorists are Afraid so we've been saying to them and Taking them and placing them in Entrepreneurship programs with uh small Businesses that print t-shirts or they Make fancy jeans or they sell you know They make hats and beanies and or they Sell well then we also put some in a Program called Hey helping Empower Youth And we gave them kiosks to sell the Water out of on Um major like on Peach Street literally Young men and women are working out of a Kiosk about the size of you know uh I Would I would probably say like 20 by 20 Like a large tent but it's enclosed and They can sell water they can sell

Coca-colas they could sell Um Atlanta gear and they had to get up In the morning go there open up the Kiosk close it down count the money and That was like great last summer we're Doing it again this summer because we Just can't have them on the public Right-of-way selling water because they Could get hurt and it's uh dangerous in Other ways and so uh we're doing that We'd like to do that times 10. That's actually really amazing Um I'm actually so sad that we're out of Time though Um thank you again for coming to speak And you know stopping by I heard you Will also be at disrupt this September Uh are you allowed to give us a peek of What you're going to be doing Um no you just have to wait and see Um but we're going to enjoy it in September you all have to definitely Check us out at disrupt it's going to be Phenomenal my team will be there and We're really you know always want to Highlight what Atlanta has to offer in This uh entrepreneurial space and the Tech ecosystem and really just been one Of the coolest cities in the world yes Oh my gosh that's so exciting uh well Thank you again for coming and thank you Everyone for watching and listening and Please stay on because we have an Exciting lineup and we have some panels

Fired side chats and the pit shop Competition coming soon so sit right or Sit tight um as the event continues


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