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Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager: CyberSecurity, Redevelopment, Performing Arts Center and more [Podcast]

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Peachtree Corners City Manager

Join Rico Figliolini as he sits down with Brian Johnson, City Manager of Peachtree Corners and listen in as they discuss the challenges of protecting the city from online attacks, the use of surveillance cameras through the city right of ways, growing international interest in Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, how a planned redevelopment authority will work, what a performance art center may look like, news about the Indigo Hotel and Innovation Lofts and more.

I appreciate my staff. I mean, I’ve got bosses that support me, no doubt they have a lot of innovative foresight when it comes to their governance… I know one thing well and that is that I don’t know everything. So I just try to surround myself with people that are smarter than me and ask them what they need to get the job done and do my best to provide it to them and then get out of their way. So I’ve got some great staff that does it and it’s exciting to be a part of the city.”

Brian Johnson

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] Intro
[00:00:41] Cyber Security
[00:10:02] License Plate Cameras
[00:17:06] Redevelopment Athority
[00:35:50] International Interest in Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners
[00:42:58] Arts Council / Performing Arts Center
[00:46:07] Fiserv, Indigo Hotel and Innovation Lofts
[00:49:10] Closing

Podcast Transcript

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life and this episode of Prime Lunchtime with City Manager, Brian Johnson. Brian, welcome.

Brian: [00:00:38] Thank you.

Rico: [00:00:41] It’s funny, we were talking just off camera, a little bit about what we had to talk about close to the holidays. How much is going on and is it quiet because there’s less traffic out there. I’m thinking it’s also quiet, but now there’s so much going on. That I’m excited. I’m excited to hear about all the stuff that’s going on here that’s going to be happening in 2020. Hopefully we’ll be getting even in there. So let’s just run, start right into it, because one of the major things that just recently happened was another city got hit with cyber attack. New Orleans and cyber security is a real big thing. So tell us, because now the city’s looking at what they should be doing, right? Atlanta happened. Louisiana, all the cities. There’s another small city that got hit like that recently. So tell us what our city is doing to plan for that.

Brian: [00:01:30] Well, you know, we have had some things in place before, so it’s not like, you know, we just, you know, a couple of days ago woke up or like, Ooh, we have to do something. But, you know, with some of the attacks that we’ve seen recently, we realized that we need to really take a hard look at it. So we, so I took somebody who’s currently on staff who’s really well versed in this, has been his entire career and sent to him to some extra schooling. And it’s Brandon, Brandon, the assistant city manager, who I gave him the collateral duty of being the chief technology officer for the city and sending him to some extra training and things like cybersecurity. And he has come, you know, he came back from some of that and some of his research and we, we upgraded some of the, there’s kind of like four legs to the cybersecurity stool. And you have certain aspects of information coming in and out that you’ve got to make sure are hardened, you know, whether it’s your firewall or you know, how you store it, whether it’s cloud or server or, and your access points. And you know, there’s just different things that you’ve got to look at. And so we’ve upgraded three of the four already, and we’re getting ready to do the fourth leg. So we, we’ve already hardened some of our stuff. Second thing though, is as we’re looking at this, you realize that one of the byproducts of having a city be more known out there in the, you know, internet universe, it puts us into a position where more people tend to probe our defenses the day of our grand opening of curiosity lab. We had, I believe it’s a 2000% increase in attack attempts penetrate down or penetration attempts at our firewall from the day before. Just because we had, we were out there. We’re talking about it and you know, all this good stuff. And so people out there like, well, who’s this? You know, what’s the city of Peachtree corners? And let’s see if we can’t get here. So it’s, you know, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of that. And then, so, you know, you recognizing the risk, doing things that, you know, that preventative things from an equipment standpoint to set yourself up the best way for success. Having redundancy and you know, things like if something happened, we can fall back and we didn’t lose all the information, we’ll pull back. And then the last thing, the most important, most people don’t realize this, but the biggest, greatest risk for hacking or the greatest. Well, I guess, well, it’s the greatest, the most significant risk for there being an opportunity for hacker to come in is created in the 18 or so inches between where somebody sits at their desk and their
computer or USB drive. Most of these things happen because somebody clicked on something and opened a way for a hacker to get in. New Orleans was that way. Somebody clicked on something and invited. I think it’s ransomware. Yeah. Into the system. And so we have, we have initiated an internal training program. We have done things like sending out internal to our IT team. We send out. Phishing, fake phishing emails to see who’s clicking on these things and then educating them on. But I mean, we do an internal, but you know, so when you do it, it doesn’t do anything other than tell us who clicked on it. And then we have training sessions on, here’s what happened. Here’s, here are some ways that when you see something that is unique that you can determine whether it’s legit or not, or it, a lot of it comes down to, you know, if you see something, say something, right. And we hear that all things like at the airport or whatever, you know, when it comes to terrorism or whatever, but even on here, if you see something in an email that’s weird and they’re asking, you, don’t just ask, so how’s the expert? You know, Hey. Yeah, yeah. Call it in and say, Hey, should I click on this? This is weird. Or, or forward it and say, that’s it. You know? And, and so we’ve, most everybody, including members of city council were very good and sending an email back saying, is this spam or is this whatever. We had a, we have a few. And so it’s just, it’s just, it’s just education.

Rico: [00:06:38] Private companies to do this as well. And they don’t. I don’t think they do it as well in smaller companies. I don’t where I’ve worked. Same thing though, because we’ll get phishing emails all the time and they’ll forward it to me because I’m the default IT guy. But yes, I know. So it’s like never click on anything that looks stupid. Even if Apple, if it looks like an Apple paid receipt and it just wants you to verify that this is, you, do not click on a link, go to Apple itself, sign in. And find out because they’ll let you know there, and most companies don’t send emails out of the wreck tufts of things. It’s just like, but they’re getting better than me. Most phishing emails will be the standard. Here’s the link, and I think you would be interested in this, and it looks like your friend’s email was some on someone else’s email, but it’s not. But some of them are really, they’re getting better at imitating a good legitimate Amazon email. I’ve got one of those where it was an Amazon, looked like it was, Amazon had all the strings to it even, but it was mass, the URL. So you really couldn’t see what was going on there. It’s just like ridiculous. So people will click on those?

Brian: [00:07:48] Yes.

Rico: [00:07:49] Cause if you get thousands of those or hundreds or 20 a week. No one of them you might click on then.

Brian: [00:07:56] That’s right. That’s all it takes. So, yeah, so you know, we’ve really recognized in it, and it’s really not a matter of if, when we get somebody, you know, inside the system, we just are, or we’re feeling more confident all the time that if it does, we can quickly isolate it and we’re not going to be crippled.

Rico: [00:08:18] Yeah. But you’re looking at that. There’s so much software they can figure that stuff out.

Brian: [00:08:22] There is. But you know, one of the big things that helped, you know, kind of motivate us maybe to get ourselves to, you know, kind of the cutting edge of this is his curiosity lab. Just the amount of data that we’re going to have generated. And oftentimes that data could be proprietary. And if it got out, it could harm a company that was doing testing and data. And imagine if like you had a car manufacturer doing some tests on, say, you know, some, some advanced technology on their vehicle and that data got out to their competitor that could hurt them. And we don’t want to be. And so we’ve had to really look at our data management plan and creating one with some help of some experts to make sure that we have as good of, one is really, we want it to be a model. We want it to be best in show, and it’s helped. Since curiosity lab, we’ve had to spend so much time on that. It’s helped us apply it to the city.

Rico: [00:09:25] And your partnerships with like Sprint and other companies probably help with some knowledge base coming in, right?

Brian: [00:09:31] No doubt about it. I mean, we’ve taken, as you know, the stance of, you know, aside from the fact that we have the service delivery model of outsourcing, so we’re very used to pulling in experts in different, but we’ve got experts in these very, you know, specific technical fields and we just pull information from them when need be. And so we have a, a large private network of partners that we pull from when it comes to these areas to say, look, we need to ultimately get here. Help us get there because this is in your area of expertise.

Rico: [00:10:02] Cool. So moving over to cyber secure from cyber security to camera, we talked about camera, plate ID, facial ID, security cameras outside of subdivisions. Where’s up overload in January? Maybe something that’s…

Brian: [00:10:17] Yeah, so January I think I’m going to be presenting counsel with the locations on public streets that we’re going to place them. And then Gwinnett County is almost ready to start receiving that data look in real time. So ultimately how it will be set up is we will have cameras at certain intersections on certain public streets. So just understand that the cameras we’re talking about right now on cameras that are placed in the public right away, and they’re oriented on the public right away, no private, you know, probably not. You know, none of that. I mean, you potentially pick one up depending on the orientation of the camera, but it’s oriented out of public right away and the purpose. And so these are video and surveillance. Oh and license plate recognition cameras together and the data collected from it will go to the cloud and the only one accessing this information is going to a County PD.

Rico: [00:11:17] Okay. How long does it stay in the cloud?

Brian: [00:11:20] 30 days. We will have it 30 days in the cloud and then it’ll be essentially recorded over. Day 31 comes in, day one gets recorded.

Rico: [00:11:30] So police, in case there was a, a robbery or burglary or, shoplift or whatever, they could probably get that data to the heavy enough time. 30 days is enough time.

Brian: [00:11:41] That’s correct. And if it’s not, we can look at what it would cost to go a little bit longer. But, you know, as you know, storage, whether it’s a server in the cloud costs. Yeah. And so we, but we want them to have access to, yeah. Gwinnett County PD would have access two ways. One, the license plate recognition data is real time. And so if a license plate was on a vehicle that had some sort of a warrant out, you know, BOLO be on the lookout associated with that. It automatically sends us a message to Gwinnett County PD. Here’s what license plate, here’s why there’s a, you know, here’s the location, and if it’s serious enough, right? Gwinnett County PD can dispatch officers maybe beyond where they just got it to try to intersect. There’s a lot that they want. Like for instance. Brookhaven’s probably a good example because they have this and you know they’re getting, I want to say they’re getting like eight, 9,000 a month. But like I want to say three quarters of those are failure to appear. Or yes or no insurance, retire, expired tags. And they just don’t have the resources and are not going to do anything. They’re worried about ones that are associated with some violent things or Amber alerts or things that cause stolen vehicles. And so they’ll make a decision on that. So that’s real time when they get that center set up. I think it’s in the first quarter of next year. They can do that. And then the video data is in the cloud and they’ll just pull it. If they need to investigate something that happened, they’ll go back and pull it from a certain period of time. And that’s it. So really the city’s putting it in as a force multiplier for Gwinnett County PD.

Rico: [00:13:34] So does the city, the city pays for it. City maintains them. But the Cornell police…

Brian: [00:13:40] Well, the city pays for it, but it’s a program through Georgia power. And so it’s really a lease program.

Rico: [00:13:46] Oh, okay.

Brian: [00:13:46] And so the reason it’s a lease program is because Georgia power, it’s basically considered like a service.

Rico: [00:13:50] So they do this with streetlights?

Brian: [00:13:52] Yeah. We don’t own the street lights in the city. We leased it from Georgia power and the lease includes, so what we pay per month per light includes the light itself, and it technically included the installation of it. So the city didn’t pay upfront for the light. It includes the electricity. It includes any repair. So if a streetlight is out, we called Georgia power and they go and they repair.

Rico: [00:14:19] They also take care of the trimming with the trees. They do as part of that.

Brian: [00:14:24] Well, that’s not part of it. They don’t want their power lines and you know, in, in, in any of their infrastructure effected by that. So they do that. But, and that’s the same with the camera. So our monthly cost per camera includes the camera itself. It includes the cloud storage.

Rico: [00:14:43] Oh, okay.

Brian: [00:14:44] It includes the electricity to run the camera. And it includes any kind of maintenance or repair that needs to be done on it if it’s not working right.

Rico: [00:14:52] Okay. And so, so we pay that so the city will pay that, but then all that other stuff would be Georgia power if it needs to be so interesting. It’s amazing how they expanded their, their business model to. The electricity is running 24 hours, seven days a week on that. So. All right, cool.

Brian: [00:15:09] Well, you know, just so that you can kind of get the gist of why Georgia power wanted to make curiosity lab, their smart city lab themselves. Cause it’s curiosity lab is Georgia power smart city laboratory. So they’re using it as their own tests. That too, that’s why one of their partners, so they, you know, the city. This program, the city became, we became knowledgeable about this program called site view is what Georgia, through their work with curiosity lab. So their purpose here is to test technology that they can hang on their infrastructure throughout the state, and they think about Georgia power sitting on millions of light poles. Throughout the state of Georgia that are already in public rights at Weiner. And if they can come up with really good technology that they can offer to cities, including like smart city technology, they can go to a city X and say, Hey. You want to be a smart city. We got this technology that can make it smarter, and in this case, let’s say a track, a camera, we got a video and LPR camera. Yeah, we can hang on our pole and you can lease it from us. You don’t have to do anything else. And you’re getting smarter. You can. Yes, you can tap into it. You can. There’s all sorts of other smart cities stuff that you can put out on poles. So that’s what they’re testing. And so they’re trying to monetize. Something in infrastructure, you know, asset that they, that they have millions of around the state.

Rico: [00:16:46] It makes sense.

Brian: [00:16:47] It makes complete sense.

Rico: [00:16:48] Not only for them, but obviously to rent to other people that may have better ideas to be able to use.

Brian: [00:16:52] And really, I mean, you know, lease, you know, rent versus own is an argument you can make. But to a lot of cities that’s a lot better because we pay one sum and then we have no headache.

Rico: [00:17:06] Cool. That’s the same thing like that in intergovernmental agreements. It’s just paying someone else to do it. You don’t have to worry about it. Like, like the police, like the fire. Same thing. Let’s go into, alright, so the next, the next thing that’s coming up that you shared with us last time, but now it’s, we’re going to be talking about a little bit more as the revitalization authority.

Brian: [00:17:30] Redevelopment.

Rico: [00:17:30] Or redevelopment, rather. So right. Revitalization, we’re not there. So redevelopment of an area, versus the other setup that we have for the town center and downtown development authority. So tell us the difference and tell us where we’re going with the other one.

Brian: [00:17:47] So there are a number of authorities that cities can create. That by that, that we’ve been given the, you know, the power to create by virtue of state statute and the state of Georgia has created, the, you know, or given cities and counties the ability to create different authorities for different purposes. These authorities are standalone organizations. That oftentimes have a lot of the same powers that a city has. They can incur debt, they can execute agreements, they can own property, they can construct things, they can own, you know, buildings. And you know, they can do a lot of things that cities can, but they were created to maybe fill some gaps that cities can’t. One of the main ones that people oftentimes talk about is cities have a constitutional requirement for us to bid things out and we want to construct, and so, and then it has to go to the lowest qualified bidder. Right?

Rico: [00:19:06] The best quality for the lowest book.

Brian: [00:19:08] Not necessarily the best, not necessarily the one that you want to work with, but that’s more, you know, creative or whatever, but the lowest, so that handcuffs the city sometimes on negotiating certain deals, because I could, as a city manager. Sit down in a room and negotiate a deal all day long. But I don’t have the city because I would be doing it on behalf of. The city doesn’t oftentimes have the ability to execute that thing because when it came time to do it, we would have to bid it out. And that entity that I was talking to may not be the lowest bidder. So one of the ways to get, you know, to, to give more flexibility for things that need more flexibility was the creation of these authorities. And the city had one initially early on it was a downtown development authority and it has all those powers that I just told you about. The downtown component means there. Their area of operation was limited to what we had term to be our downtown. So we created, drew, an official line that we consider our downtown, and their authority was limited to inside of that. Redevelopment authority and very similar, but its scope is for into redevelop property that’s been developed already.

Rico: [00:20:35] So no geographic boundaries could be anywhere in the city.

Brian: [00:20:37] Or it could be geographically limited. If council wanted to, it could say, we’re going to, our redevelopment zone is going to be here and we’re going to limit it to, but they could also say, the state merely says that it has to be used. A property that’s been previously developed.

Rico: [00:20:55] You can’t go to a property that’s vacant.

Brian: [00:20:56] Well, that’s never been developed. You know, that’s never been, I mean, anything. Most of the property right here. And so we don’t have a lot of that. Most of the property around here has been developed. And so we’re now kind of, I mean, Fiserv is maybe one of the largest ones left, that there was a lot of undeveloped property. Governor’s Lake still has some, but we don’t have a whole lot after that. I mean, Simpsonwood is going to be a park, so that that’s not going to be, that’s a large tract of land. But anyway,

Rico: [00:21:27] But there’s a lot of aging property also.

Brian: [00:21:29] There is, and there are some opportunities for us to take property that’s had something on it, but it’s had its day and maybe it needs to get redeveloped. And so council’s going to kind of shift their orientation and attention from, you know, maybe the town center, which is right now kind of got it. It’s kind of gone. Cruise control right now we’re seeing some things finished, but it’s, you know, as far as construction and everything, you know, the town green, we’ll always, we’ll always be talking about what activities we need to have and what didn’t work last year and all that kind of stuff. But well, you know, it’s time for us to maybe look at some properties that need to be redeveloped and what we want to do, what council wants to do is to bring as many tools as we can to the table. And a redevelopment authority is a way to do that because they have, they have opportunities to do things that the city can’t do direct.

Rico: [00:22:25] So now you’re going to be doing, you’re going to be presenting this as city manager, presenting this to council. And there is maybe to open it up to applications or, right?

Brian: [00:22:33] So for us to, you know, for us to populate the board, right. Cause it is a board. Council will go through a process of vetting of candidates and then they appoint the board. But once that board is appointed, I mean it is an independent board.

Rico: [00:22:50] I mean it was a new city council approval to do its business as an authority. The state establish authority. They could do whatever they want. Even raising bonds.

Brian: [00:23:02] That’s correct. I need to know their limitation is going to be money initially, so that’s where city council’s role comes in, is the redevelopment authority mean legally could go to a bank and say, we want to take out a loan, but the bank would turn around and immediately say, where are you going to get the money to pay the loan? And they wouldn’t have that. The DDA downtown development authority didn’t either until the city appropriated money and gave it to the DDA, and then the DDA bought the land that the town center is on.

Rico: [00:23:36] The city was sort of the guarantor. There was two.

Brian: [00:23:40] Absolutely. And so it may be need to be that way for awhile with the redevelopment authority, but over time, these things start to get. So, you know, the last city I came from was Anniston, Alabama, and it was an old city. And it had, we had an industrial development authority that had deals. That it had done in the past that we’re generating revenue, a bunch of revenue, you know, they would, they would end up building, constructing a, you know, say like a warehouse, and then somebody would come in and lease it from them. And over the years, the lease had paid off the loan, so now the lease amounts were profit. So it’s nothing. So they, at that point, you can get to a point where they didn’t even need city council technically because they had their own revenue stream.

Rico: [00:24:25] So it’s funny because some people like me included, probably think, well, you know, the, this, the authority would go back to the city and say, how about we get a tax abatement for this development? And, but I’m not…

Brian: [00:24:35] Which they can do. Correct.

Rico: [00:24:36] But I’m not thinking that they could actually build their own facility and then get this money out of it. So they have that opportunity to, to build something bigger, grander, multi-use transportation based. But whatever. I’m just thinking out loud, of things to do and then bring in those people, those other developers, they released the space.

Brian: [00:24:59] Do what they can do, direct negotiated. You know, maybe public private partnerships without having to bid it out and go to the little bitter. So sometimes you can be more creative that way when you can, you know, negotiate, not have to do that. So, you know, there’s some opportunity and it also brings in a board comprised of people that are looking at these issues with fresh eyes.

Rico: [00:25:23] Right? Sure.

Brian: [00:25:24] You know, sometimes when you’re in the, in the, you know, in the sausage making of providing things, you know, services by the city due to our residents, sometimes it’s hard to get outside of that, you know, these are people who are looking at it with a fresh perspective and they may have some. You know, things that, you know, we should look at that we’ve overlooked internal to the city so far, or they’re going to help, you know, educate the public as to why we’re doing it. I mean, so it’s just, it’s just more stakeholders involved in the process.

Rico: [00:25:58] So, you know, that, that reminded me also that, I think when I count is looking back at, not that this reminded me, but it’s the same sort of long lines of citizen participant, if you will. Cause the people that could apply for that thorny or citizens that can be in business, could
be retired to be anyone that has a, I guess a decent resume or a background that would want to submit the application to see if they could be on that at the guardian. Who picks those people?

Brian: [00:26:24] Council appointment.

Rico: [00:26:27] Okay. Council world point though. So that reminded me, I think it was the ILT five survey that when I count these putting out again and again, it’s another look at transit one more time, or at least the next time, because this is keep going until something happens and water ends up coming into it, into the connect. Kathy, that that survey is going on now. But you encourage people to take that survey.

Brian: [00:26:50] Even the city we’ve had, you know, I’ve taken a survey. Well, both as a resident and has a, you know, a, you know, the city manager of the city. And it’s important, I mean, you know, to let the powers that be know your thoughts on transportation.

Rico: [00:27:07] That was, I think there was a, a vote against getting mater, putting a big billion dollar train, if you will, into the, to the era. Now, it’s funny, I saw something about a light rail, a monorail, a transportation ring. Again, that could be part of that, that mix possibly, but that surveys out there, they’re going to come back again to, sure. Put this on the ballot.

Brian: [00:27:31] There’s talk that it’ll be next. You know, November of 2020, that may be back on the ballot and interesting.

Rico: [00:27:37] All right. So, and that’ll be a different voting time than the March when that was the only thing.

Brian: [00:27:45] I think the talk now is to put it on the, you know, when we’ve got the, the nationals. I mean, they haven’t made a vote, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s back on the ballot then.

Rico: [00:27:58] That, that, yeah, that’s not surprising. We, I was at a grand opening, just recently. It was a, a new place that just opened. Brightree is the company and it, depending on, on the description you get, it’s an either an IT company or it’s a medical company, depending on what website or which did you do that search online. Because it is a software it company, but that deals with medical equipment and…

Brian: [00:28:27] And home health care.

Rico: [00:28:29] Acute home health care. and they, that facility, if anyone drove by on one 25 technology Parkway, what somebody find, maybe it’s on the right side, going towards one 41 from and to be behind you. And, it’s a beautiful facility. They give us a tour. It was excellent. 160 jobs that’s coming from Lawrenceville to Peachtree corners. And it reminded me of industrious, which is sort of a wee workspace on the perimeter. Just beautiful, open wide corridors, open
spaces, areas to, you know, wellness rooms, calm rooms, cause you need to calm yourself down. I saw that there. But high technology and all that. One of many that is being renovated these, but that was down to the wall to one wall, practical in this, totally built out as far as doing ASHRAE, ASHRAE. That’s raise another company that’s going to spend millions on renovate. So we were excited to be at that grand opening.

Brian: [00:29:28] And so, you know, bright tree got bought out by a bigger company and they expanded and they came in. And they started a search in Metro Atlanta as to where they wanted to go in while their search was going on, curiosity lab got onto their radar screen, and the CEO was kind of like, what is this curiosity lab? And he started to look into it and ultimately told their broker that they wanted to be somewhere associated with that. And the exciting part for us was. You know, he announced at the grand opening that curiosity lab was actually why they chose that site. Ultimately, the exciting thing for us was two things about it. One is they took a building that Honeywell had occupied for a long time that had been vacant for longer than the city of Peachtree corners had been in existence. They bought that thing, gutted it, made it, you know, made it. A really innovative, you know, space and, you know, returned it to productive use and then they decided to move to that location because a curiosity lab, something that they don’t have anything to do with it. That to me was really, because if they were like some sort of a, you know, like mobility company or a cybersecurity company and they wanted to be there because of it, but they’re not going to be using it. He said the reason they wanted to move there is because curiosity lab. Has created this innovative ecosystem in tech park that they wanted to just be a part of, even though they’re not directly involved. They wanted to be around, and the synergy that comes from that kind of thing. And that was awesome to hear because curiosity lab now. Can officially say it was responsible for 160 jobs, and in September of 2020 when ASHRAE, which is the American society for refrigeration, air conditioning and something engineers. But it’s the, you know, design professionals for the interior systems of buildings, lighting, HVHC, you know, all that kind of stuff. These are the design professionals for that. The engineers and mechanical engineers, wherever it’s their professional organization, they decided to move their global headquarters to the old recall building to build a big classroom and education space in there to make their building a net zero building and to kind of bring people in to see how they could take a building, gutted out and make it net zero kind of show off the newest one. But they came to that area because of curiosity labs. So that’ll be 120 jobs. So curiosity lab will have been responsible for 280 direct jobs and and in buildings that had been vacant for. In some cases, you know, really long time old buildings. Not to mention we haven’t even gotten into the hotel increase due to the activity and all that kind of stuff. So really excited to have an innovative company like Brightree. That’s still some pretty cool stuff, but for them to just want to be in that ecosystem because of that is pretty cool. I mean, it just shows that. Using curate, creating curiosity lab for the purposes of economic development has absolutely happened. And then there was a big, lastly, a big article in business. Now Siemens corporation is expanding and decided to stay in Peachtree corners and expand here, and they now have 800, 900 jobs in Peachtree corners. Big expansion within here. They could’ve gone anywhere, but they decided to stay because of some things that are going on that’s, you know, international.

Rico: [00:33:30] It’s a big company.

Brian: [00:33:31] You know, and so it’s our, our vacancy rates are going down. We’re really seeing activity picking back up. And it was an exciting time.

Rico: [00:33:40] It’s not that we’re Silicon Valley, but it’s funny how people want to be around. What, starting up as technology and mobility and all that because you’re meeting other people. I mean, that’s the whole idea of we work space. This whole idea of the way bright tree set up their work environment where people can talk to each other, less closed offices and more open spaces, more collaborative spaces. The idea is to be able to be out there. Then in talking to other people, meeting, bumping into other people like it and to be brewery. You know, maybe the people are going there or all the places with the tongue Mark. Cause it’s just that they have synergy with each other through a degree.

Brian: [00:34:21] Right. Well, I mean even curiosity lab, we oftentimes refer to it like the sandbox that we can send technology, these technology toys that we’ve put in the sandbox and we invited people to come play and that interaction is why, you know, Georgia tech is doing, for initiating for research projects at curiosity lab next year in January for different ones. And they were in the sandbox playing, kind of getting ready for that. And Delta clues in the sandbox, kind of looking around at the toys and they look across the same box of like hit Georgia tech. What are you doing here? They tell them and Delta’s like. That’s some cool stuff. Can we be a part of some of it in Georgia? Sure. So they partnered in Georgia. Delta now is part of some of those projects because they’re, and they wouldn’t, they met because of that synergy.

Rico: [00:35:11] And that’s what that’s all about, right? That’s how Silicon Valley got big. That’s our parts of Boston and Brooklyn, New York, and other places that are hubs for the technology of biodiversity and stuff. That’s how they got going. Cause you did that and you get that. Is this like Atlanta tech park? You know that where we’re a, this podcast room is out of here, out of Atlanta tech park. I mean this is a place that also technology companies are talking to each other and learning a bit from each other and stuff

Brian: [00:35:43] Yeah, I mean, that’s the whole purpose of it and it’s working well, so we’re, we’re very pleased with the progress.

Rico: [00:35:50] Now you’ve had seven countries in six weeks, come to Peachtree, seven countries in six weeks. I can’t say that again. That’s one a week. More than one a week that you’ve had come to here because of…

Brian: [00:36:01] They have approached us with official delegations. Yes. Representing the government of a country have been here with the last that we’ve had sea delegations from Israel, Great Britain, France, Taiwan, Canada, Belgium, Australia.

Rico: [00:36:32] Wow. Pretty diverse all over the country. All over the world.

Brian: [00:36:34] Some of them had their console generals actually. Part of the delegation, or in Taiwan’s case, the trade ambassador from Taiwan to the U.S. was part of that. So this isn’t like some underlying, right. And they have approached us on wanting to learn more. And wanting to explore maybe ways for country, companies from those countries to maybe have curiosity lab as used as kind of a landing pad for companies that either want to test some things in our environment or some cases is just demonstrate their product. In the North American market here in, you know, the Metro Atlanta area. And so two of them, Israel and Taiwan, we have executed memorandums of understanding to create that pipeline that hopefully we start seeing some, you know, and it may be temporary, maybe just a couple of days maybe. Yeah. You know longer, but you know, a couple of days of these companies operating here, they’re going to be eating in our restaurants, maybe shopping in our stores, and certainly staying in our hotels.

Rico: [00:37:41] These are the same, same people, same, same countries of becoming again, probably to the 2020 smart city expo that’s going to be happening again.

Brian: [00:37:51] Well, we just got may, isn’t it? As it gets may. But it is, the sooner it is. And we just got off the phone, a RD tan and the CEO, smart city expo, Lana just called me two days ago in wanted to discuss ways that they could include, she could include curiosity lab in the next smart city expos. Again, I need you guys as part of it, so we’re looking at doing something. Maybe we do as part of the conference, kind of like a pitch day or a demonstration day, or where you could have companies come out here and for that day. They get to demonstrate to an audience of people maybe that are comprised of, you know, venture capital money, or maybe it’s representatives from some of the Atlanta headquartered companies, and they can pitch and demonstrate their product. And maybe there’s some of those companies are interested in talking to them about, you know, partnering or buying or using or whatever. And so, you know, we’re going to keep exploring it. But again, we’re at a point where we used to be. At the table pitching curiosity lab, you know, saying, Hey, it’s going to be this really cool thing, and now it’s the other way around where people like. What can we do to partner so that we can do some things.

Rico: [00:39:13] We were talking about this before we started the streaming, about, about that, about getting so many, so much interest. And sometimes you have to put your hand up and slow it down a little bit and say and sort it out because some of it’s legitimate, some of it is serious. And you want to say how you want to take that and, and you’re also yearning to, you’re also realizing, out there in the world is. Well, the city’s doing other things and you bring it back, more knowledge to the city to be able to say, you know what, we could take this also and do this. You know, maybe.

Brian: [00:39:43] And we are trying to figure out, we’re wanting to do everything well, cause all it takes is, you know, is one big mistake. And we could ruin our reputation. You know, people like,
Oh don’t go there. You know, we could have some sort of like data loss or you know, whatever. The don’t go there cause they don’t have their act together. So you’ve gotta be very careful about that. We have some companies that are ready to go right this second. We’d just like, hold on, we’re not quite ready for you to like, you know hook into our system or, you know, whatever. But then we’re also trying to take all this and made sure that we are learning innovative stuff to stay ahead of. We’ve got cities nipping at our heels right now. We have got to continue to stay at the leading edge or else we’re going to get caught and potentially passed.

Rico: [00:40:37] And now this’ll be, you know, yarn, you know, this is not continuing. On the, so that’s a great partnership with even smart city expo Atlanta. It is doing that type of…

Brian: [00:40:43] And other big partners, you know, we have them in Georgia power and sprint, Georgia tech and Delta. They’re all looking for ways to stay at the leading edge and we’re hoping that they’re pulling in. They are pulling some of that back here and we’re learning some things. And then, you know, the mayor council’s credit, I mean, you know, first let’s give him credit for funding and in supporting my staff and I’s effort to do this. This is unique, you know, so this isn’t like something that, you know, cities do a lot. And you could, you could, they could have been really criticized for spending money on something that’s not quite as conventional as just more police officers or potholes being patched. And those are important, but you also have to consider economic development activity. And if all of a sudden we had no potholes, but we also had lots of empty storefronts. You know, we’ve got an, you know, problems ourselves. So they’ve been very. It’d been very, you know, politically, you know, strong in you, you’re supporting this.

Rico: [00:41:44] The city can chew and chew gum and walk at the same time. So there’s so much going on in the city and as the city manager, I know I give you a lot of credit too, because you’re essentially running the city and this so many things that you have to worry about and take care of. And I’m sure it’s, it’s way different than a, and you’ve working, you guys are working on tight staffing and stuff, so everyone’s working really hard to be able to get us down that same road to degree to make sure everything works well. So I commend you for the work that you and your staff.

Brian: [00:42:18] I appreciate my staff. I mean, look, I’ve got bosses that support me, no doubt are very, you know, they have a lot of, you know innovative foresight when it comes to their governance, and then I just would, I know one thing well and that is that I don’t know everything.

Rico: [00:42:37] And so that’s what I liked about you Brian, because you’re willing to, to say that and know that your King’s good.

Brian: [00:42:41] So I just try to surround myself with people that are smarter than me and, and ask them what they need to get the job done and do my best to provide it to them and then get out of their way. So I’ve got some great staff that does it and it’s exciting to be a part of the city.

Rico: [00:42:56] It’s good to count on other people.

Brian: [00:42:57] It is.

Rico: [00:42:58] We’re at the end of our time together here, 45 minutes of learning what the city’s doing, what’s coming up. And 2020 is going to be real big. So I mean, this, the bridge that’s going up, there’s a redevelopment that’s going to be going on, I’m sure. And we didn’t even talk about my, one of my favorite things I gotta ask about this, cause we did talk about it a little bit. I’ve noticed that next door, the app, every, there’s been people talking about, wouldn’t it be great to have a theater company in Peachtree Corners? How would that be? And I, so, so many people respond to that. Both same, but we have high school theater. But what about adults? And we would love to, I’ve seen people that we would love to do the backstage with, like love to be, you know, acting and singing, whatever.

Brian: [00:43:58] There is an arts council. We had a master plan development and there’s really more talk about having possibly a, some sort of theater being built or performance arts center being built on the cheerly property. So at the town center, there’s one more parcel of land that’s undeveloped. It’s the parcel of land that you can see along the will that be the Eastern edge of the town green that’s still wooded. The city owns that. And mayor and counselor are considering options on how to develop that. And, you know, other than telling you that whatever we do there, I know. City council wants it to be a value add to the town center and a draw in and of itself. Performing arts center of some sort has been probably a common theme throughout. The whole thing is maybe we put something in there and our arts master plan identified a couple of, I guess call it size venues that are lacking in the immediate area. So there are some sweet spot that we can hit that seat a certain amount of people that there’s really not that, cause you know, there are some that are really big in the area, some that are really small. There’s some areas that we, that master plan, the consultant that you did, it felt like it was a sweet spot. So council is certainly interested in pursuing something like that. Cause that would be a draw. That they would pull people to the town center. And when you do that and they’re done, they want to do something afterwards. So a reason why when I counties do try to do the revel and everything up at the infinite energy center is the complaint was. You go to something there and when you’re done, you walk outside and there’s nothing around. You got to get in your car and you got to drive somewhere else. And when you, once you get in your car, you’re kind of like screwing up, going home.

Rico: [00:45:41] And wouldn’t it be great to go to fiber and have dinner and then go to a play.

Brian: [00:45:45] Absolutely. And then afterwards you can leave and go back and have drinks somewhere or you know, whatever. And so that’s the theory here. And, and so, you know, mayor and council will continue looking at activating that. And, but that’s certainly one of the highest priorities that they’ve talked about is trying to make that.

Rico: [00:46:07] That would be awesome to be able to have that, their total advocate for that. Well. Okay, so Fiserve, we don’t need to talk about it, but it’s happening and there it is. The first phase is looking, that’s going to break….

Brian: [00:46:23] Early next year about 200 units.

Rico: [00:46:26] Okay. So that’s going to be happening on East Cheryl’s bridge road. But the thing that really, I want to sort of hit off for a few minutes before we end our time together is that the apartments and the Indigo boutique hotel, so the apartment is actually called the innovation…

Brian: [00:46:42] Innovation lofts,

Rico: [00:46:43] lofts. I love that name, but eventually lofts, hopefully, I mean, from what I saw, the renderings should look beautiful, but the Indigo hotel has been financed.

Brian: [00:46:54] Yeah. So both that pedestal, you know, covered parking, apartment, complex innovation lofts, 355 units, and then the hotel Indigo, that has been, the capital has been raised. The adequate capital has been raised to do that. And so, it looks like that’s a, a DOE. And with the capital having been raised, and we’re going to have both of those happen right behind the, you know, where chase bank and the Georgia clinic and black Walnut was that area right there that’s going to be sent.

Rico: [00:47:30] That’s going to be both buildings.

Brian: [00:47:32] It is.

Rico: [00:47:33] It’s amazing that that small, it seems small when you look at it. But both of those seven story towers.

Brian: [00:47:39] Oh, well, means six, yet six stories on the apartment. I think he goes only like four or five, but yeah, so they’re both next to each other kind of candidate. Can’t elite or you know, they’re like with the pool in the main check-in area, kind of in-between for the hotel and everything. So, but you know it’s small, but if you think about parking is all going to be underground. Some that, that, you know, allows you to do some things. So, so that’s exciting.

Rico: [00:48:12] Yeah, that is exciting. I’m sure all the businesses around town center and, and that in that whole area over there is, you know.

Brian: [00:48:19] That’s the whole reason you do mixed use is because you want residential units close to where you have retail and restaurant because that walk up convenient. The shopper or patron is who you want. And you know, the more residential units we have, the more activity, all of that. And those restaurants on both sides, cause the forum too with that
pedestrian bridge, if you live right there, you can just walk right across there as a forum and you know, you don’t have to get in your car. And so we’re, we’re excited about the development that’s happening.

Rico: [00:48:54] In the town, the town hall, a townhouses, I should, they poured some foundations.

Brian: [00:48:58] They have, they love it. Foundations are being poured on the first section of it. So those are going in. That’s 75 I believe, of the five townhome units right there. So the trust is happening.

Rico: [00:49:10] Yeah. Cool. What’s happening out there and appreciate you joining Brian. And I, Brian Johnson, City Manager of City of Peachtree Corners. So for all those that may be listening that are not part of the city, there’s just so much happening. You just need to visit. So it’s just go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. That’s our, my website. I’m publisher of Peachtree Corners magazine. We’re working on the next issue for February, March. Some good stories, a great cover story we’re working on and pick up the last issue or go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com to see it online on a digital edition of the 20 under 20 kids.

Brian: [00:49:48] Awesome edition. That was a cool idea that you did.

Rico: [00:49:51] That was so great to see these kids and we had a photo shoot with these guys. They got to know each other and traded numbers and emails and stuff. So it’s good. It’s good to see that collaboration amongst them.

Brian: [00:50:01] It’s also good to see, you know, young kids doing great stuff. It gives me confidence that the future we’re is in good hands.

Rico: [00:50:09] For sure. Thank you everyone. I appreciate you showing up. Bye.

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City Government

City Receives ARC Green Communities Certification

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Pictured: Doug Hooker, ARC's executive director, Peachtree Corners' Economic Development Manager, Jennifer Howard, Mayor Mike Mason, ARC's Sustainability Coordinator Kelsey Waidhas and Kerry Armstrong, ARC's chairman of the board.

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) announced that the city of Peachtree Corners and three other metro Atlanta cities (Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Woodstock), have been certified through the agency’s Green Communities Program.

The program recognizes these cities’ efforts in demonstrating leadership in sustainability practices. Developed in 2009, the ARC Green Communities Program recognizes local governments that invest in programs and policies that lead to a more sustainable region.

Peachtree Corners was recertified at the Bronze level for providing single-stream curbside recycling to all residents and hosting an annual electronic waste disposal event for residents to safely and properly dispose of electronic appliances and devices. All winners earned certification points for sustainable measures implemented in their communities.

“Protecting our environment and recycling responsibly have always been of paramount importance to our city,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “I am very proud that Peachtree Corners has once again been certified by the ARC.”

The nationally-recognized program showcases the many ways that local governments can reduce their environmental footprint. In metro Atlanta, 20 local governments – 13 cities and seven counties – are currently certified under ARC’s Green Communities Program. This is the first program in the country to promote sustainability through a green certification program for local governments.

“These local governments are to be commended for demonstrating an ongoing commitment to conserving energy and protecting our natural resources,” said Kerry Armstrong, ARC board chairman. “Their efforts set a positive example for other communities while fostering a sense of regional pride.”

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City Government

Councilmember Sadd Schedules Town Hall Meeting for January 21

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Phil Sadd

Post 1 Councilmember Phil Sadd is hosting a town hall meeting on Tuesday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church, 5105 Winters Chapel Road.

Issues to be discussed include:

  • Spalding Drive Widening and Holcomb Bridge intersection improvements
  • Crime Prevention Initiatives
  • Town Center Upcoming Projects
  • Curiosity Lab Autonomous Vehicle Test Track
  • Re-development Efforts

“If you’ve ever driven on Spalding Drive between Winters Chapel Road and Holcomb Bridge Road during rush hour, you’ve probably experienced significant delays and extended wait times, said Councilmember Sadd. “At the town hall meeting, we will provide an overview of the Spalding Drive project and explain how it will help improve traffic flow and increase pedestrian safety.

“This project will bring incredible improvements to our city, and we want to provide our citizens with an opportunity to understand the plans and ask questions.  In addition, we will provide updates on other key activities taking place throughout our city.” 

The Peachtree Corners mayor and council members, as well as other elected officials with common jurisdiction, will be in attendance to inform citizens of key matters impacting the community.  The town hall meeting will include an open Q&A session, giving citizens an opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions of their local representatives.

The town hall meeting will be held in Peachtree Corners District 1, and is open to all citizens.

Source City of Peachtree Corners

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City Government

Mayor Mason Elected to Atlanta Regional Commission Board

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Atlanta Regional Commission

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has announced that Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason has been selected to serve on its 39-member board.

Mayor Mike Mason

The ARC is the official planning agency for the 10-county Atlanta Region, including Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties as well as the city of Atlanta and 73 other cities. The commission serves as a catalyst for regional progress by focusing leadership, attention and planning resources on key regional issues.

One mayor from each of the 10-member counties (with the exception of Fulton, which has two mayor representatives, one from north Fulton and one from south Fulton) is represented on the board and is selected by majority vote of the other mayors. Gwinnett County has 16 cities; Mason was elected by majority vote of the mayors and the Buford commission chair and will represent Gwinnett County.

Additionally, each of the counties are represented by a commissioner from each of the 10-member counties, 15 citizen members which are selected by the board’s elected officials and a representative from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

“I am truly honored to have been selected to sit on the ARC board,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “I look forward to being part of the organization which plays a very important role in ensuring the entire metro Atlanta area remains a dynamic region.”

In addition to ARC board duties, Mason will serve on one of 11 committees that focus on key areas such as aging, budget, land use, transportation and air quality.

Mason will begin his term in January which runs concurrent with his term as mayor of Peachtree Corners. He replaces Nancy Harris, Duluth’s mayor, who served on the ARC board for the past eight years. The board meets monthly at its offices located at 229 Peachtree Street in Atlanta.

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