Week of September 25, 2000
  Blockbuster Deal of the Week
   from Site Selection's exclusive New Plant database

Motorola Will Reportedly Build
5,500-Employee Campus in Suburban Atlanta

Atlanta's increasingly successful drive to become a high-tech haven is apparently spurring another big hit of incoming traffic: Reports are surfacing that Motorola (www.motorola.com) will create a suburban corporate campus that will house at least 5,500 employees.

At the same time, though, old-fashioned roadway traffic - not only related to the Motorola project, but to other corporate moves as well - is increasingly a major concern in the Atlanta metro.

The new Motorola campus is reportedly headed for the city of Suwanee (www.suwanee.com) in the Atlanta metro's northeast arc. Apparently waiting for all site issues to be resolved, Motorola officials have refused thus far to comment in depth on the project.

Some local officials, however, are talking.

"We have never seen anything of this scale. They're going to be great corporate partners," Suwanee Mayor Nick Masino told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (www.accessatlanta.com).

Developing 1.3 Million Sq. Ft.

Masino confirmed that Suwanee officials have been in discussions with Motorola regarding the apparent campus site, a 111-acre (44.4-ha.) tract near I-85.

Details of development on that site became public in a rezoning application, which Atlanta-based Motorola representatives jointly submitted with Steve Gaultney and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Associates, both local developers.

According to the application, Lawrenceville-Suwanee Associates would develop a corporate campus that would span more than 1.3 million sq. ft. (117,000 sq. m.) devoted to office, distribution and light-manufacturing uses. The campus plans divulged in the rezoning application also include a 298,000-sq.-ft. (26,820-sq.-m.) retail center.

A Product Development and Testing Center?

Reports on the Motorola proposal thus far have speculated that the primary emphasis at the new campus will be on product development and testing.

But which products? No one seems to fully know yet.

One related development vaguely suggested wireless -- although the timing is likely totally coincidental. The rezoning application came shortly before Southern and Nextel, Atlanta's most business-slanted wireless carriers, announced that they'll be using Motorola's newest-generation phones to offer wireless Internet access.

Wireless has been a major weapon in Motorola's rebound from 1998's downturn -- and there's a lot left on the wireless plate. By 2003, in fact, some industry analysts project that annual U.S. sales of wireless phones will surpass even the sales of TVs.

Atlanta's 'Smart Growth' Issues

The Motorola campus would be Atlanta's latest technology-intensive recruiting success. WorldCom, for example, is readying to move into a 2,500-employee suburban Atlanta campus in Alpharetta. But the corporate move that seems to have the most Atlanta tongues wagging is simply a relocation: Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has just announced that it will relocate 1,000 jobs in downtown and midtown Atlanta to a consolidated suburban operation outside I-285.

Coke officials say that the new suburban facility will enable the company to create a "nerve center." The consolidation, they add, will be more economical than retrofitting the two existing facilities in which the 1,000 affected employees now work. And consolidation will increase the synergies between the affected business units, they say.

Solid real estate reasons, all. At odds with those reasons is "smart growth," which has become, however belatedly, an increasingly important concern among metro Atlanta's civic leadership. "As one of Atlanta's most cherished companies, it seems as if Coca-Cola should know better," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"In the past couple of years, as the region has been coping with the problems of traffic congestion, there has been much wider recognition to centralize employees to areas that can be served by public transit and offer a live/work/play environment," the Journal-Constitution continued.

Bell South: Atlanta's Smart Growth Poster Child

In contrast, Bell South has become the area's poster child for smart growth. Bell South last year announced its "Metro Plan," which will relocate almost all of its regional workers to three new sites inside the city's perimeter and near mass transit.

Coca-Cola, on the other hand, is relocating 1,000 employees away from sites that already have mass-transit access. (It bears noting, however, that Coca-Cola has been a strong and consistent supporter in developing a smart-growth master plan for Atlanta's downtown and midtown areas.) In contrast, companies like Motorola and WorldCom, because each first set up its Atlanta-area presence in the suburbs, seem to be getting a pass on the "smart growth" debate.

In addition, Motorola's campus work force will reportedly be made up almost exclusively of local hires, and the site is near a huge shopping mall. Retail center employees could also get to work on paths designed for walking or bicycling. Those factors seem to be enabling Motorola's project to pass critics' live/work/play test -- at least for the moment.

Meanwhile, the smart growth debate continues to play out in Atlanta - which has become synonymous in some observers' eyes with the phrase "urban sprawl."

Perhaps the debate is falling on receptive ears -- particularly among residents who want to be near where they work. Officials promoting comprehensive economic development in Atlanta's midtown report that some 6,000 new area homes will come online in the next two years.

©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.