Hubs of technology innovation thrive on a sense of community. From California’s Silicon Valley to the Research Triangle in North Carolina, technology hotspots build and shape their own identities, not just as business centers but also as places to live – regions where work, life and play can coexist.
From Peter Tokar’s vantage point, it’s his mission to help the city of Alpharetta, situated almost 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta, earn that similar reputation. As the city’s economic development director, he sits on the cutting edge of developing the growing technology community while also making – and marketing – Alpharetta as a better place to live.
“Economic Development within the city of Alpharetta primarily focuses on being the promoter and advocate for the city,” he says. “We do a lot of outbound marketing to promote it as a destination where you want to live, work and play.”
Tokar’s role is equal parts champion, marketer, and developer, focusing on business recruitment, support, relocation and retention. It’s a job that has awakened his personal passions for technology and business, despite previously working for less tech-centric communities.
“One of the fun things about economic development is that you always have to be willing to learn about the community you’re going to, and to quickly adapt to whatever the strengths of that community are,” Tokar says. “In Alpharetta, our core strength is technology, so to become familiarized with technology and the kinds of industries we have has been a really fun growing process for me.”
Alpharetta’s technology community is in the midst of a massive boom. Over 640 companies call its borders home, and startup-support programs such as the Tech Alpharetta Innovation Center and the city’s startup relocation grant (which provides funds to help companies physically relocate to Alpharetta) are allowing companies from inside and outside of Georgia to help grow a supportive, innovative startup ecosystem.
Tokar emphasizes the city’s “unparalleled” infrastructure, with transmission speeds seven times the national average and close-knit network as among the benefits of being part of the Alpharetta community. However, he and his team never lose sight of the community, within and outside of the tech industry.
“We want to make sure that while we’re having this renaissance of technology growth within the city,” he says, “that we’re taking care of the community as well – offering a high quality of life, a lot of amenities for both business and residents, and to focus on making Alpharetta a livable community, not just a great place to work.”