Curiosity Lab and the innovation it attracts may be the most significant economic driver in the area.
In Peachtree Corners, where economic development and business endeavors are in constant change, it’s important to get periodic updates on what’s going on in city government. That’s why the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) invited Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson as the evening’s speaker at its January Business After Hours event.
Johnson prefaced his talk by pointing out that PCBA is the same age as the city itself and that government isn’t the only driver in a municipality’s prosperity.
“Cities are only as good as the activity, the involvement that we get in all facets of the city, whether it’s the business environment, recreational, whatever — and we can’t do it without people like you who are taking your time to try to make your community a better place,” he said.
Through that kind of community and business support, Peachtree Corners remains the second largest municipality in Georgia with no city property tax, Johnson added.
“One of the reasons that we can do that is because of our very healthy business environment and the synergy that it generates,” he said. “And the more successful the companies here are, the more revenue we get from lots of different things.”
Johnson cited occupational tax, business license fees, and sales tax from people shopping, eating, and lodging in the city as big contributors. “It’s one of the main reasons that we can do it,” he explained. “So, the city is very bullish on economic development.”
Peachtree Corners’ appeal has lured many from far and wide. Part of the interest in the city comes through Curiosity Lab, which is a very important asset as it has become a magnet for business activity coming to the city.
“Four years ago, we sat down and really looked hard at the city and said, ‘Economic development activity is important so that we don’t have to collect property tax, but are we doing everything we can to make sure that this community stands out from other communities?’” Johnson remembered.
Peachtree Corners is in a very competitive market when it comes to attracting and retaining businesses. Johns Creek, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Alpharetta are all in the running when companies look to expand or relocate. The city kept coming back to the same conclusion to attract tech industries.
Vision continues expanding
“Back in the late 60s, a Georgia Tech grad turned developer named Paul Duke decided to do something about what, at the time, was a brain drain of Georgia Tech graduates having to leave metro Atlanta because there were not enough tech jobs in the area to keep them,” said Johnson.
Duke had been to the Research Triangle Park area in North Carolina and seen a concept of building office parks under a theme. The occupants of those office buildings were all together and all focused on the same industry — biomedical, energy, etc.
Inspired by that idea, Duke started speculatively constructing office buildings about 20 miles from downtown Atlanta and only filling them with tech companies. Today, it has grown into Technology Park, covering more than 500 acres and filled with over 10,000 people.
Over the years, some amazing discoveries have been made in that space.
- In April of 1977, the first PC modem was created by a Georgia Tech alumnus.
- The color printer was invented in Technology Park.
- Scientific Atlanta, now Cisco, was also founded there.
Moving forward, the city couldn’t just rely on its reputation. Similar technology-themed business parks were cropping up in other areas of metro Atlanta — Johns Creek, Buckhead, and downtown near Georgia Tech — as well as in other states.
City leaders started looking at what they could offer technology companies that they couldn’t get everywhere else. “We noticed that technology goes through an evolution in which brand-new technological gadgets or widgets are created. The first place that it gets tested is in a closed laboratory environment,” Johnson said.
Once it’s ‘perfected’ in the lab, it needs an intermediate step before it’s released to the general public. For example, an advanced vehicle would be tested on a closed course without people and other vehicles around. Once it passes that level, it needs another step before it’s completely ready — limited interaction with the ‘real world.’
“Maybe we take all of those roads that the city owns inside of Technology Park, and we open it up to companies to test or demonstrate the technology of any sort,” said Johnson.
The city investigated and found that nowhere else in the world had this. “So, we set out in creating Curiosity Lab,” he said. Its three-mile stretch of roadway offers 32 places where new technology can interact with cars and everything else involved in day-to-day traffic.
Major economic driver
The city isn’t only looking to attract automobile technology. Four years ago, it partnered with Sprint, now T-Mobile, to set up a 5G deployment — one of the first in metro Atlanta.
“This has become a very powerful magnet for companies to come here, even if it’s just for a little while. When we created it, …we decided to reduce some of the barriers to entry, and one of them is money,” said Johnson.
There is no cost to use the facilities, but the companies spend money in hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and other local businesses while they’re here. So, Curiosity Lab is now an economic driver for the city and the entire area.
Once companies see the possibilities, some decide to move their operations here. One such company is Brightree, a technology company that provides solutions to post-acute care providers. It was looking to relocate and ultimately chose Peachtree Corners.
“The tipping point was that the ecosystem we created was going to afford them an opportunity to interact with companies, or even use some of the technology, here that they wouldn’t have had elsewhere,” said Johnson.
The company took over a vacant building and brought in about 150 employees initially.
Another success story is Intuitive Surgical, a California-based company that makes robotic-assisted surgical systems. The most notable right now is called DaVinci. The company is looking to expand aggressively because it’s the only one with FDA approval for this type of device.
Intuitive was looking for east coast operations and had narrowed its selection to Peachtree Corners or Durham, NC.
“What pushed them over the edge was Curiosity Lab’s ecosystem in Tech Park,” said Johnson. “They said the partners and users we have are what they want to be around and be able to interact with.”
Intuitive is currently building a $600 million medical campus, creating 1,500 jobs with an average salary of $150,000. It will also bring 19,000 overnight hotel room stays per year from visiting surgeons who come here for training on the DaVinci device. It’s the largest economic development project in Gwinnett County and the second-largest medical economic development project in Georgia.
Johnson added that the vision of city leaders has afforded Peachtree Corners residents to enjoy an outstanding quality of life with no city property tax, thanks to Curiosity Lab. He hinted that other big announcements will be made in the coming months and encouraged everyone to enjoy the ride.
Photos by Richard Phillips
International Leaders Gather for 10th Annual SMART Community Exchange 2023 in Peachtree Corners
SMART Community Council has hosted SMART Community Exchanges across the U.S. and Europe during the past decade, engaging executives, investors, innovators and advisors in hot spots of technology innovation.
Strong technology cooperation and the initiative to make communities smarter get support on both sides of the Atlantic. Leaders face the same challenges and see partnership opportunities to test, prove, commercialize and implement SMART solutions.
The 10th Annual SMART Community Exchange brings together SMART leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists, innovators and investors. The event will take place on Monday, October 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners.
The focus is on SMART-R (SMART + Resilient) Infrastructure, energy, mobility, transportation, frontier technologies, safety and security, health and wellness, education, finance and more.
Participants include delegates from enterprises and organizations, higher education institutions, federal, state, and local governments, economic development, industry, manufacturers, labor organizations and workforce development.
“There is so much potential for companies to grow business through strategic partnerships in the hot spots of tech innovation across the United States. Many of these ‘hot spots’ are SMART Communities, such as Peachtree Corners, Georgia, and the Curiosity Lab, co-host of the SMART Community Exchange 2023,” said Tana Torrano, co-founder of the SMART Community Exchange.
Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners is a 5G-enabled intelligent mobility and smart city living laboratory near Atlanta.
Designed as a proving ground for IoT, mobility and smart city emerging technologies, the lab’s centerpiece is a three-mile public autonomous vehicle roadway leveraging cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies.
The ecosystem’s infrastructure includes intelligent traffic cameras and signals, smart streetlights, the country’s first “IoT Central Control Room” implemented in a city and a 25,000-square-foot innovation center.
The Curiosity Lab, owned and operated by the City of Peachtree Corners, is one of North America’s only real-world testing environments.
SMART technology broadens access to new opportunities and markets in tech-intensive economies and benefits communities, businesses, governments and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.
“US-EU cooperation matters today more than ever. We share the same values and commitment to serve as a catalyst for joint innovation. … Together, we are stronger to face today’s challenges and reap the benefits in a fast-changing world where technology plays a critical role,” stated Minna LeVine, Chair of the SMART Community Council.
Interested in attending? Register here! Registration is $97 per person and includes lunch, programming, VIP networking and a tour of Curiosity Lab.
Israeli Startup Brings Intelligent Traffic Solution to Peachtree Corners
The City of Peachtree Corners announced a partnership with Intelligent Traffic Control Ltd (ITC), an Israeli startup that provides a software solution for existing traffic infrastructure.
ITC’s smart solution aims to improve travel experiences by measuring traffic to predict and mitigate congestion before it occurs.
ITC will partner with Curiosity Lab to launch this solution for the first time in the United States. The company plans to deploy the solution in select Peachtree Corners traffic intersections for demonstrations and testing.
ITC’s software connects to existing traffic cameras and uses computer vision analysis to identify all road objects and collect data, including speed, acceleration, traffic flow, distance, pedestrian activity and more.
ITC’s software also complies with privacy regulations by hiding license plates and faces.
Using machine learning models, data is then analyzed to create a traffic model that highlights patterns of each intersection or corridor. This information is connected across a grid of intersections to create one holistic image.
ITC is also predicting traffic patterns based on historic data, enabling cities to have more control over traffic congestion.
“With our solution already deployed across Israel, in Australia and other countries worldwide, Curiosity Lab will serve as a real-world playground for us to continue to develop our solution and to officially launch in the U.S. with an official office in the Innovation Center,” said Aharon Brauner, ITC Co-Founder and CEO.
“That ecosystem is the perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate the effectiveness of our solution with consistent mixed traffic, public transit and pedestrian activity along the corridor.”
In addition to uncovering patterns, ITC’s solution can create traffic simulations across intersections and corridors where the software is deployed.
Traffic controllers and city managers will be able to visualize and simulate countless theoretical traffic scenarios for the software to solve.
ITC’s software can also manage traffic based on a city’s specific goals, whether limiting carbon emissions and improving sustainability or providing general traffic management, prioritizing pedestrians or public transit and more.
“Our software not only learns and adapts traffic signals and patterns in real-time, but also has the capability to manage traffic to prioritize certain categories of road users,” said Dvir Kenig, ITC Co-Founder and CTO.
“This allows cities to manage each intersection or corridor differently based on the type of traffic they are seeing and/or time of day,” he added.
“According to recent studies, more than 40% of traffic accidents occur in intersections, and congestion accounts for 25% of car greenhouse gas emissions – with the average driver spending three days per year stuck in traffic,” said Brandon Branham, Curiosity Lab Executive Director.
“We will be able to manage intersections in real-time and can easily download a traffic report and adapt traffic signal patterns remotely, which is a huge advantage for city managers when there are major wrecks, community events and sudden surges in traffic,” he explained.
Clevon’s Autonomous Delivery Robot Fleet Zooms into Smart City Peachtree Corners
Peachtree Corners has announced that Clevon, a global autonomous delivery company, is joining the city’s Curiosity Lab ecosystem. The company’s autonomous robot carriers (ARCs) are designed to help fulfill last-mile package, grocery, restaurant, retail and industrial deliveries around the city.
“It was only fitting to bring our second major operation here in the United States to one of the most advanced smart city environments in the world at Peachtree Corners,” said Sander Sebastian Agur, Clevon’s Chief Executive Officer.
Clevon’s fully electric ARCs aim to reduce failed deliveries, carbon emissions, cost of delivery per customer and stolen packages.
“We’re proud to have adopted some of the world’s most advanced emerging technologies here in Peachtree Corners, and we’re delighted to continue that tradition by welcoming Clevon and their autonomous robot carriers to our community,” said Brandon Branham, Curiosity Lab Executive Director. “From a city perspective, we are always looking to improve our residents’ everyday lives with exciting new technologies. Showcasing how robotic solutions can help enhance package delivery operations while reducing congestion and emissions gives us a further peek into a brighter future.”
Clevon’s ARCs operate on U.S. public roadways and are built to deliver multiple shipments during a single trip. As part of the Curiosity Lab ecosystem, Clevon will explore live testing for 5G adoption in partnership with T-Mobile.
“We are proud to be supporting Clevon in this greater mission to create more sustainable and efficient delivery solutions,” said Dave Bezzant, Vice President, T-Mobile for Government.
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