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Surgical Robot Maker to Become City’s Biggest Employer with $540M Campus Expansion

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A top manufacturer of surgical robots is planning a $540 million expansion of its local campus into a national hub that will make it the largest employer in the city by far and one of the biggest in Gwinnett.

Intuitive Surgical’s expansion on its Data Drive campus aims to bring 1,200 net new jobs at an average wage of around $130,000 a year. State and local governments are helping with an estimated total of roughly $67.8 million in grants, tax breaks, fee waivers and other assistance.
The multibillion-dollar California company’s local growth is good news, according to local officials and a surgeon who uses its robots.

“We are thrilled that Intuitive recognized the benefits of being located in Peachtree Corners, and we are grateful to have their growing campus in our city,” said Mayor Mike Mason in an August press release announcing the deal. “Peachtree Corners is a major regional technology hub with great homes, great schools and great community amenities, so we are confident that Intuitive will be very pleased with their decision to expand their presence here.”

Dr. Manu Sancheti, the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Sandy Springs, uses Intuitive’s robots daily. He trains other surgeons in the robotic techniques at the Peachtree Corners campus, and his kids attend Wesleyan School nearby.

“I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity for the community,” Sancheti said in a recent interview. “I think it’s going to be a really exciting place for robotic surgical education.”
“We were thrilled to learn Intuitive has chosen to expand their presence in Gwinnett County,” Governor Brian Kemp said in the press release. “With our advanced medical environment, dynamic workforce, pro-business policies and thriving economy, Intuitive made the right decision in choosing Georgia.”

Set to become a top local employer

The Peach State continues to attract world-renowned companies like Intuitive, and this huge investment coming to the new Peachtree Corners campus will benefit hundreds of hard-working Georgians across metro Atlanta.

The company’s massive boost in local presence from nearly 200 jobs to 1,200-plus is expected to happen sometime between 2024 and 2031, according to press statements and state documents. That would take it to the top of local employer lists. According to the City, the biggest private employer in town today is CarMax with 600 workers, followed by Soliant, which last year announced 598 jobs in a headquarters move.

Based on data on the website of the economic development agency Partnership Gwinnett, Intuitive would become the county’s sixth-largest employer overall and fourth largest in the private sector. Today’s top public employer is Gwinnett County Public Schools at 23,300 and the biggest private employer is Northside Hospital at 4,650.

Founded in 1995, Intuitive is now headquartered in Sunnyvale in California’s Silicon Valley. The company is a pioneer of robotic surgery with its Da Vinci line of spider-like, multi-armed robots. It also recently introduced the Ion, another robotic device to explore and biopsy the lungs.

Robotic surgery offers superior healthcare

Sancheti, who is also Emory Healthcare’s Head of Robotic Thoracic Surgery, uses both types of robots. He says the highly dexterous arms hold a camera, a light and various surgical devices like scalpels and staplers, which he remotely manipulates inside the patient’s body while viewing an enlarged 3D version on a screen, much like playing a very serious video game.

The big advantage of the robots, Sancheti says, are much smaller incisions, since only small robot arms rather than human hands enter the body. “It allows me to do the surgery almost as if my hands were within that body cavity without making a big incision,” he said.

Robotic surgery on the heart or lungs is done through incisions around 8 to 12 millimeters long — less than a half-inch. Compare that with 8- to 12-inch cuts for traditional surgery, which often also requires spreading or breaking some ribs. The robotic version, Sancheti says, means much less pain, faster recovery and less use of potentially addictive narcotic painkillers.

Those advantages have made for a booming business that put Intuitive into an expansion mode. The company is planning a similar campus expansion at its headquarters, which began moving through Sunnyvale’s local approval processes at the same time Peachtree Corner’s deal was announced. Jennifer Garnett, a spokesperson for the City of Sunnyvale, said the company’s growth is welcome there, too.

“Since their start here in 2002, Intuitive Surgical has grown to become Sunnyvale’s seventh-largest employer and is among our 25 largest sales tax producers,” she said. “Their long-standing support of the Sunnyvale community through their employees’ volunteerism and the Intuitive Foundation has been equally important. For example, the foundation donated $200,000 in 2020 to the City’s nearly $3 million Sunnyvale Cares program to support nonprofits and small businesses during the height of the pandemic.”

Peachtree Corners nurtures company growth

According to a company spokesperson, Intuitive came to Peachtree Corners in 2013 with 15 employees and has grown to nearly 200 workers. The local campus “serves as our primary training site for surgeons and care teams, and the area’s amenities, quality of life and universities provide us access to a strong and diverse talent pool,” the company said in a written statement.

The current local headquarters is 5655 Spalding Drive, at the intersection with Data Drive. But Intuitive owns six buildings on roughly 39 acres of land along Data Drive between Spalding and Triangle Parkway, with a lake in the middle. That’s the expansion area.

“The expansion provides office workspace, training for our clients and our internal staff, engineering supporting manufacturing, manufacturing space and all of the campus amenities found at a major Intuitive hub, like Sunnyvale,” the company’s statement said. “The initial Phase 2 expansion will provide approximately 700,000 gross square feet of facilities. The ultimate campus build-out will likely be much larger, but is still in planning.”

The company had no illustrations of the campus concepts to offer, but gave a brief description: “The campus will be a series of interconnected buildings, gardens, terraces, a lake and wooded, natural spaces, like those seen on many academic and corporate campuses. The design will promote a healthy lifestyle with broad accessibility for all staff and guests.”

The exact timing remains to be seen. The announcement in August spoke of completion in 2024, while the formal incentives deal in state documents estimated completion by Dec. 31, 2026, and gives the company seven years starting in June 2024 to fulfill the jobs promise. Under the terms of the deal, the company must maintain 183 existing, full-time jobs and maintain operations on the campus for at least 10 years.

In exchange, Intuitive is being offered “cost savings and cost avoidances” estimated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development to be worth $67,745,530. The company could get a little more if it exceeds the promises and less or nothing if it doesn’t.

Among the assistance is a $2 million state Regional Economic Business Assistance grant to offset costs of property, machinery and equipment; $29.781 million in jobs tax credits; and a $12 million property tax abatement. The City agreed to waive a total of $3.11 million in regulatory, occupational and stormwater fees, while the county will pay $30,000 to install a pedestrian beacon crossing. The deal even includes the government footing a $2,500 bill for a press release and ribbon cutting.

John Ruch is a journalist with SaportaReport and Buckhead.com in metro Atlanta. His freelance work has appeared in such publications as the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. In his spare time, he writes fantasy novels.

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Taste of Peachtree Corners: PCBA Showcases Local Restaurants

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Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.
Photos by Anna del Villar

The Taste of Peachtree Corners has been in the works for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic put many key events on hold for the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA).

But luckily this year, the dedicated staff of volunteers successfully executed a memorable event and introduced a lot of local business owners to their neighboring restaurants and caterers.

As I walked up to the Community Chest Room at Peachtree Corners City Hall on June 27, there was a line outside the door. I later found out that over 100 people had registered to attend the event. I got checked in quickly and was faced with a “passport” of 10 Peachtree Corners restaurants serving everything from high-end bakery items to good old-fashioned barbecue, and modern twists on seafood and American cuisines.

Let’s talk about the food

The idea was to visit all 10 restaurants and collect stars while trying samples and small plates. My first stop was Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, and they had my favorite – homemade chips and queso. The queso was smoky and mildly spicy with a great depth of flavor. What a great start. Next up was Chopt. Creative Salad Co. I had never heard of this restaurant before, but they blew me away with a perfect amuse-bouche of cherry tomato, pesto, mozzarella, and olive oil. These guys understand simple and fresh Mediterranean flavors.

The folks from Marlow’s Tavern were also on-site serving shrimp and grits with jalapeno, spinach and tomato beurre blanc. This is definitely the style of elevated food I’ve come to expect from Marlow’s. And as a nice touch, they prepared a refreshing blueberry cocktail.

Another familiar face was set up on the other side of the room. J.R.’s Log House Restaurant served southern favorites like pulled pork sliders, baked beans and mac n’ cheese. I couldn’t pass this one up. The pulled pork was tender, tangy and saucy. Exactly what I want from a barbecue. Lazy Dog’s table really impressed me with its presentation. The tuna cup with rice, avocado and chili with chips on the side, was a real stunner.

Moe’s Southwest Grill was also on-site handing out tasty tequila lime chicken with rice, avocado, and black beans. This super hearty and comforting entrée was followed by a seafood course from PECHE Modern Coastal. Crab cakes with a croissant pinwheel, roasted garlic and lemon aioli and arugula were on the menu and the flavor combinations were simply fantastic.

PECHE’s sister restaurant STAGE Kitchen & Bar was next door offering a tuna and salmon tostada with avocado, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and cilantro. This was easily one of my favorite bites of the night. The tostada was crunchy and light with clean and bright flavors. No kidding, I could probably eat this every day for lunch.

I moved on the Smoke’s Family Catering and owner Phillip Smoke had whipped up enough barbecue to feed an army.  I had the pleasure of trying the smoked chicken with potato salad and it was the perfect pairing. Last but not least: dessert. I capped off the evening with a beautiful chocolate ganache-filled croissant with perfect lamination and flaky texture.

The inspiration behind the event

With a (very) full stomach, I caught up with PCBA President Lisa Proctor to talk about the event.

“We knew that COVID was really hard on a lot of our restaurants to get people back in,” said Proctor. “We wanted to do it in June because we wanted to celebrate our military. Everybody remembers them maybe on Memorial Day or different things, but June is the 80th anniversary of D-Day.”

“The military is always close to our heart,” she added. “We’re also very proud of our restaurants. They all have gone above and beyond.”

Tonight, the PCBA was honoring the Armed Forces and its brave veterans while bestowing two donation checks to very worthy causes.

The first check for $500 went to Folds of Honor. Since 2007, Folds of Honor has provided life-changing scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled military. And now, their mission expands to the families of America’s first responders.

The second check for $500 was given to Light Up the Corners, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization with an annual glowing, flashing, blinking, shining, nighttime running party and fundraiser in one.  All proceeds from the event go to benefit less fortunate children and families in the Peachtree Corners community who are struggling by giving them the chance to participate in life-enhancing programs and activities at the Fowler YMCA.

Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.

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Local Resident Opens AtWork Location in Peachtree Corners

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AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners, Georgia at 6185 Buford Highway, Suite E-100.

AtWork Peachtree Corners is locally-owned by Kamal Bhatia, an immigrant from India with decades of experience in hospitality and as the Senior Vice President of Operations of Atlanta-based Action Bartending School.

AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners.
Kamal Bhatia

“There is an incredible need for AtWork’s services in Peachtree Corners,” said Bhatia. “Since migrating here in 1996, I’ve witnessed Atlanta evolve and sprout new communities north of the city, including my own. Peachtree Corners has become a hub for thriving businesses, and my goal with this location is to be a key resource between companies and job seekers to support the continued growth of our local economy.”

Bhatia’s son and daughter will assist him in the business.

“This is an opportunity to create a legacy company to ensure our community is supported for generations to come,” he said.

For more than three decades, AtWork’s mission has been to connect people with jobs and jobs with people. With more than 100 locations nationwide, AtWork puts nearly 40,000 individuals to work each year in administrative, light-industrial, accounting and finance, hospitality, IT and management-level positions at some of the nation’s largest and most recognizable companies.

“We’re proud to open our doors in Peachtree Corners and provide a common place for both job seekers and growing businesses to turn for staffing solutions,” said Jason Leverant, President and COO of AtWork.

“AtWork will serve as a key resource to help employees thrive, businesses prosper and communities flourish. Kamal is the perfect partner to champion our mission and be a servant leader in her local community,” he added.

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Business and Birdies: PCBA to Host PGA Tour Championship Exec.

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Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta

Don’t miss your chance to connect and learn at the Peachtree Corners Business Association‘s (PCBA) After Hours Speaker Series. Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and head to the Hilton Atlanta Northeast (5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092).

This event features guest speaker Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta. Urban brings more than just golf expertise to the table. He is a graduate of Clemson and UGA with a background in communications and marketing, and he’s passionate about using his skills for social good.

His talk, “Stewarding to Serve: How Leaders Can Leverage Resources for Community Impact,” promises valuable insights for current or aspiring business leaders.

Plus, the PCBA will be presenting a donation to Paint Gwinnett Pink, a local breast cancer charity making a real difference.

Ticket prices range from $25 for early bird members to $40 for guests.

Register today to secure your spot!

And click here for more PCBA news.

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