December 26, 2000, 4:37 PM — HIGH-TECH COMPANIES are flourishing, venture capital is flowing and spacious loft apartments are affordable and plentiful.
Sound like Shangri-la?
It's the latest pitch for Atlanta, where the local chamber of commerce has hired a full-time recruiter specifically to attract young technology workers with promises of jobs, a low cost of living, exciting night-life and sports events galore. "People think of Atlanta as a small, sleepy Southern town," says Rosita Smith, the new director of talent development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. "We want people to know that it's a vibrant and diverse community and a cultural place."
The Atlanta area ranks 10th in the nation in high-tech jobs, according to Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic development for the Atlanta chamber. But as in other technology-friendly cities, the workforce isn't meeting the demand. Under pressure from Atlanta's roughly 10,000 technology companies -- led by AT&T, BellSouth and Lockheed Martin -- the chamber launched a $4 million nationwide advertising and recruiting blitz last year to attract startups and fill the widening gap between technology jobs and workers. Just before hiring Smith in February, the chamber launched a slick new website complete with job listings and photos of loft interiors.
Smith, the former associate director of career services at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been charged with spreading the good word about Atlanta by traveling to college campuses and recruiting fairs across the country. She also plans to bring local academics and industry leaders together to help find ways of better preparing students for the job market.
It's too early in the five-year effort to judge results, Smith and Gant say. But traffic on www.atlantasmartcity.com rose 20 percent in its second month after receiving 200,000 hits in February. And other communities are taking note of the initiative and seeking advice from the Atlanta chamber. "So far, we've been pleasantly surprised," Smith says. "People are noticing us"