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The Wave of Electronic Vehicles is Riding High in Peachtree Corners



Photos by George Hunter.

Photos by George Hunter.

Anyone who’s still curious about what Peachtree Corners Curiosity Lab contributes to the area, can just take a look around. But you’ll need a strong pair of binoculars because its reach goes well beyond this part of Gwinnett County.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine and recognition from the ARC Advisory Group, a leading technology research and advisory firm for industry, infrastructure and cities, further elevated Peachtree Corners reputation as one of the most productive and innovative smart cities in the country.

“My LinkedIn has been very popular the last week,” said Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager and Chief Technology Officer Brandon Branham. He said he was asked about how the city has become so successful in the technology field.

“We’re here to share with other communities. It’s a great time, I think, for local government just because there are lots of opportunities, and about to be a tremendous amount of funding for communities to take advantage of,” he added.

Working together for sustainability

Part of Peachtree Corners’ secret is embracing the private/public model. “These companies are coming around us to make investments in this technology because they’re learning how to deploy and scale a lot of this. So, Curiosity Lab provides a great opportunity for them to come and work in a real living lab and interact with day-to-day traffic,” Branham explained.

Branham commented on the recent legislation in California calling for an end to sales of internal combustion engines. Just days later, the state asked electric vehicle (EV) owners not to plug into the power grid to conserve energy.

“There needs to be a balance between the infrastructure and the vehicle applications for them to come together,” he said. “From a perspective of the city and Curiosity Lab, our job is really to make sure the infrastructure is ready for the onboarding of all these electric vehicles and their OEMs.” Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) make systems or components that are used in another company’s end product.

Peachtree Corners is currently working through some partnerships where Curiosity Lab will develop a 2.6-acre lot in Technology Park Atlanta. The focus will be on a sustainable electric infrastructure.

“Some of your level-two charging infrastructure can be ran off a sustainable source, such as solar, so we’re working with companies to bring solar integration into the site to power as much of the of the level-two infrastructure as we can,” Branham said. He added that there will be a handoff from big transit to other transportation devices, like e-bikes and e-scooters, “…so that when you get off the bus, you have those other last mile connection options.”

But the EV lot won’t be worth anything if it’s not utilized. It’s also going to be a gathering spot for Atlanta Tech Park employees in the 500-acre office park.

“We’ll have some outdoor seating, some green space and public Wi Fi,” Branham said. “Employees and residents can come out and just hang out and maybe work out of that area and have a place to gather centrally within Tech Park.”

In addition, the area will test some new innovative projects, like hydrogen vehicles and perhaps a hybrid of hydrogen and EV.

Right now, one of the biggest challenges with EV is battery storage. “We’re actually talking to a company that takes …these electric vehicles as they start to age,” Branham. “What do you do with the batteries? How are we going to sustainably recycle electric vehicle batteries?”

One option that’s being explored is taking old batteries from these cars that are starting to come into the end of their life and using them as battery storage devices for solar.

Electrify PTC Clean energy advocates, car aficionados and those who just wanted a look at some of the latest technology gathered on a cool September Saturday morning at Peachtree Corners’ first EV car show, Electrify PTC. In alignment with National Drive Electric Week, the event highlighted the fact that Peachtree Corners is a Certified Green City and has the largest EV charging station in metro Atlanta.

Georgia Public Service (PSC) Commissioner Tim Echols shared remarks about the future of EV. The PSC’s primary job is energy regulation. In office since 2011, Echols has become a champion of clean energy. When he took office, Georgia was 34th in solar power. Now, the state is ranked ninth in the nation for installed solar and is poised to be fourth in installed solar by 2024.

Some members of the Paul Duke STEM F24 Racing Team attended the Electrify PTC Car Show. Team members include: Darwin Ramirez, Rob Syvertson, Ada Cochran, Stephen Syvertson and Donald Iwejuo, with Stephen Cochran .

Echols has created what he calls “The Clean Energy Road Show,” and he has presented it throughout the state every summer for the last 11 years. The event educates commuters, businesses and municipal governments about alternative fuels for transportation and residential use.

“We’ve got great economic development and tech innovation coming up, and none more important than here at Peachtree Corners,” said Echols.

“Do you realize that when this Nissan Leaf came out in 2012,” he said, pointing to his personal vehicle, “that none of these other cars existed? While the DeLorean did, it wasn’t running on electric. Nissan really paved the way, as well as Tesla, for EVs. Now we’ve got well over 60 models with a plug, so things have come a long way.”

Many of the attendees admitted freely that they couldn’t afford the six-figure sticker price of many of the vehicles on display. Echols assured them that their time was coming.

“That’s why we have to have a secondary market for these used cars because not everybody can afford a $40,000 or $60,000 or $80,000 or $200,000 car. If we’re going to see this clean energy transition go, we’re going to have to have a robust used car market with cars like this that…you can buy for $7,000 or $8,000.”

A group of salespeople from the Jim Ellis Automotive Group reported that EVs are starting to show up on the used car lot. That was reassuring to several families. “Maybe I’ll be able to afford one of those before he’s in college,” said a father as he ruffled his young son’s blond locks.

“GM just announced the Chevy Equinox is probably the lowest starting price for an electric vehicle outside of the Nissan Leaf,” Branham said. “So, it’s going to start to appeal to the broader consumer. I think that gives more opportunities to educate the public about the benefits.”

Dealerships and partners at the event included Clean Cities Georgia, Ford, Mercedes, Jim Ellis, Karma Atlanta, Swincar, T-Mobile, Georgia Power, Siemens and QwikCharge. Vehicles on display included Ford Lightning, Rivian R1T, Revero, Audi E-tron, GMC Hummer, Porsche Taycan and Jaguar I-Pace.

Down the road

As the technology improves, EV offerings will be more varied. There was a firm at the show that builds an off-road electric vehicle. Since it doesn’t burn fossil fuel, it can be used inside national parks. A company near Chattanooga, Tn. offers guided tours with the vehicles.

Branham envisions a near future where motorcycles, boats and water vessels, like jet skis, will run on electricity.

In addition to personal vehicles, Curiosity Lab is looking to extend public transportation. The autonomous shuttle that loops Technology Park will expand its range.

Branham pointed out that Tech Park’s hotels are just down the road from Peachtree Corners’ downtown. “We will start to provide options for those visitors to take the shuttles up Peachtree Parkway to our downtown to connect them there, then they don’t have to sit in their car,” he said.

Right now, the goal is to have people make different choices as they start to think through their transportation needs, Branham explained. “But you’ve got to take those first steps to get out there and really try it, use it, see what works, what doesn’t work, and then pivot from there,” he said. “Hopefully, in the middle of next year, it will be up and running.”

Beep and Moovit Team Up to Provide AV Rides

Peachtree Corners residents can hail autonomous vehicle (AV) and electric vehicle (EV) shuttles on the path along Technology Park via the Moovit app. In May, a partnership between Moovit and Beep was announced. Beep is the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) entity that operates the largest autonomous shuttle deployments in the country, and also operates Peachtree Corners’ shuttles. The Moovit app features ride hailing and seat reservations, real-time tracking of shuttles and convenient travel options. Learn more at moovit.com and ridebeep.com.

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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Shadow-Soft Joins Curiosity Lab as Startup Program Partner 



Shadow Soft Logo

Peachtree Corners announced that Shadow-Soft has joined Curiosity Lab as a Startup Program partner, providing additional resources for startups in the lab’s incubation program. Shadow-Soft specializes in helping companies modernize their infrastructure and applications with containers, Kubernetes, and the cloud for scale, speed, and cost.

“As an Atlanta technology leader, we are always looking to support companies as they grow and scale. We use proven methodologies to make sure people know where to start, identify a clear path forward and understand what open-source tools to use so they can start small, think big, and act fast,” said Shadow-Soft Vice President Nick Marcarelli.

“This aligns perfectly with companies at Curiosity Lab as they begin to grow their businesses. At times it can be overwhelming for growing companies to build a stable, reliable, and secure environment. We can provide the architectural insights and engineering knowledge necessary to scale with ease,” he explained.

Shadow-Soft is offering free 30 and 60-minute consultations with their team of experts to aid Curiosity Lab startup leaders in three separate areas: creating a technology blueprint to bring ideas to life, building rapid software development prototypes, and constructing a technology infrastructure to scale on demand.

“Adding Shadow-Soft to the Curiosity Lab adds an immensely valuable tool to offer our startups – complementing the opportunity they have to collaborate with some of the top technology brands in the world,” said Curiosity Lab Executive Director Brandon Branham.

“One of the largest challenges startups face is scaling rapidly. When the time comes, startups will often need executive guidance when it comes to scaling their company correctly, quickly, and in an affordable way. Shadow-Soft will be able to coach our startups from the beginning of their journey to their peak growth to ensure they have long-term success.”

For more about Curiosity Lab’s startup programs and Shadow-Soft’s startup program offerings, visit curiositylabptc.com/startups/.

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PCBA Donates to WellSpring Living



Pictured: Matt Bettis PCBA Outreach; Audrey Boyce PCBA Outreach; Suzanna Martinez PCBA Outreach; jeAnne Jeter Wellspring Living; Lisa Proctor PCBA Board; Allison Reinert PCBA Board; Michael Pugh PCBA Board; Toby Anderson PCBA Board

The Peachtree Corners Business Association awarded a check for $500 to Wellspring Living at their February 2023 Business After Hours Speaker Series Event!

The mission of Wellspring Living includes transforming the lives of those at risk or victimized by sexual exploitation. Wellspring Living provides community-based and residential services as well as partners with a wide range of human service organizations to ensure that each victim’s needs are met.  Programs include residential programs, community programs, and graduate services.  Wellspring Treasures (one located in Duluth) is not just a source of revenue but a hub for communities to engage with our work and be a part of the solution to help restore lives.

“The PCBA is proud to donate a check for $500 to Wellspring Living in support of their efforts to save lives at risk or victimized by sexual exploitation.  Our Outreach Committee and Board are impressed with the extent of the Wellspring Living programs and resources available in our community.  With the PCBA’s continuous commitment to supporting our community in a meaningful way, we are excited to be a part of the success of their survivors”, says Lisa Proctor, PCBA President. 

Funds for the PCBA Community Outreach program are raised throughout the year from PCBA membership, sponsorship, and our annual charity event.  Donations and scholarships are awarded at their monthly events, so the members have the opportunity to learn more about these organizations.

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International Floriculture Industry Leader Chooses Peachtree Corners for Headquarters



Dave & Bev Garcia, Brenda & Pete Garcia, and Kathy & Jim Headlee

Garcia Group recently located its main office and showroom for Flora Mart in Technology Park.

Pete Garcia, a recent inductee, and recipient of the highest floral honor in the industry from the Society of American Florists Floriculture Hall of Fame doesn’t mind that he’s not a household name. But anybody in the floral industry — retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, growers, wholesalers, importers, and event florists, as well as floral students, educators and researchers — have probably heard of the man who has been a major player for more than 60 years.

His contributions to the advancement of floriculture and his never-ending advocacy for floral research, scholarships, and grants are why the highest honor of the floral industry was bestowed upon him.

During his acceptance speech, Garcia acknowledged the hard work and dedication of his family and staff. “We hope that we have left a footprint in the industry and that we’re all successful through what we have accomplished together,” he said. 

Besides his strong work ethic and business savvy, Garcia hopes to encourage younger people to take advantage of opportunities like he did.

Flowery path to success

With his son, David Garcia, now at the helm, Pete has relinquished control of the Garcia Group and Pete Garcia Co. The firm does business across the U.S. and North America as well as Europe.

Garcia’s passion and determination are just as strong as when he first drove a delivery truck for a wholesale flower company in Jacksonville, Fla. “My older brother went to college to be an electrical engineer and the pressure was on me to do something else. I was going to be an architect, but I hated school,” said Garcia.

When he and his first wife were expecting a baby, he just needed a job. So, in 1956, history was made when he decided against college. He took his creativity and earnestness and applied them to the floral industry.

“Our family was very detailed by nature,” he said. 

Garcia’s father came to the U.S. from Spain when he was 16. A skilled cabinetmaker, he was a genius who devised floating staircases and other marvels. Garcia Sr. was so dedicated to his craft that his tools have a place of honor in the Flora Mart building.

Garcia applied that same type of ingenuity to his career, and he eventually became an assistant manager for the florist company Carlstedt.

Call it luck or the right opportunity for the right man, but several years later, Pete Garcia found himself a salesman for the eastern zone of the U.S. selling floral supplies. In his first year, he increased the business by $1.2 million. When the owner died four years later, Garcia took over the business.

A year later, 1970, he incorporated the Pete Garcia Co. He’d realized that there was nobody supplying florists with mouth-blown glassware on a large scale. Garcia worked out agreements with several suppliers to smooth out the supply chain.

Peachtree Corners location fits perfectly

After 46 years in Chamblee, the company now has a 30,000 square-foot showroom in what many consider the gateway to north metro Atlanta. The sophisticated, state-of-the-art operation in Peachtree Corners is unique in that it fills the needs of virtually everyone in the floral industry around the world and provides convenient access for domestic and international clients.

“We chose this spot because we didn’t need to be in a retail environment,” Garcia said. “We only sell to wholesalers and growers and creators of the products themselves.”

Although 2023 had just kicked off, the headquarters was already bustling with clients looking to place orders for next Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Photos by George Hunter

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