The 9th Annual Roswell State of the City was held virtually in mid-March, with nearly 250 attendees streaming in live! Roswell Inc recapped projects from the previous year, gave an overview of current market trends and provided insight into what’s to come for the business community in the year ahead, followed by a State of the City update from Roswell Mayor Lori Henry.
Our Executive Director, Steve Stroud, kicked off the event with a presentation on the state of the city from an economic development perspective. He first looked back at the work of Roswell Inc over the last year to provide COVID-19 assistance and relief, which was rooted in partnerships and communications. Just days after the Roswell Inc team shifted to working remotely in mid-March 2020, they launched Roswell Inc’s COVID-19 Business Bulletin email and webpage. This became the organization’s main form of communicating COVID-related news and information from state and local executive order announcements to financial assistance opportunities to reopening guidance. Since its launch, Roswell Inc has sent nearly 30 COVID-19 Business Bulletin emails, which received more than 36,000 opens. Additionally, the COVID-19 page has been visited approximately 3,500 times.
Roswell Inc also worked with its partners to provide support, including the Mayor’s Business Recovery Task Force, the Greater North Fulton Recovery Task Force as well as collaborating with the North Fulton Economic Development Partners—City of Alpharetta, GNFCC, City of Milton, City of Sandy Springs and Select Fulton—on the North Fulton COVID-19 Business Impact Survey.
Stroud highlighted businesses that demonstrated resiliency and success in overcoming the challenges of COVID-19. Some of those businesses included Uncle Jack’s on Canton Street, which backfilled a space that became vacant amid COVID; 3 Hermanos Supermarket, which relocated just weeks before the pandemic struck and saw a nearly 50% increase in sales; and Wellstar North Fulton Hospital, which launched a bilingual COVID-19 awareness and prevention campaign that helped to reduce the number of COVID cases by 50% amongst the Hispanic community.
Stroud also gave an overview of the current state of the market to show the business community what the path toward recovery looks like. Roswell’s retail market did surprisingly well in 2020. With more than 8 million square feet of inventory, only 7.1% is vacant which is less than in 2019. Additionally, market rent is 2% higher than in the previous year at $19.80 per square foot and market sale price is also up slightly at $198 per square foot. Roswell’s office market is fairing well, all things considered. With approximately 2 million square feet of inventory, vacancy rate is only slightly up at 13.5%. Average lease prices for Class A office remained steady in 2020 at $29.25 per square foot, while Class B dropped by about 3% to $19.82 per square foot. Lastly, Roswell’s unemployment rate is significantly below the April peak of 10.4%, dropping to 3.4% at the close of 2020. A healthy retail market, a stable office market and a declining unemployment rate, all signs that Roswell’s economic recovery is headed in the right direction.
Steve Stroud then presented a recap of his team’s work over the past year. Roswell Inc supported 69 attraction and recruitment projects, completing 12 and continuing to work on 32 projects. They also supported 48 retention and expansion projects, completing 15 and continuing to work on 18 projects. Additionally, Roswell Inc conducted 310 COVID assistance meetings, 333 business development meetings and 91 ombudsman meetings. Through all of these efforts, Roswell Inc helped to create or retain nearly 1,000 jobs in 2020. Some specific projects that Roswell Inc worked on over the past year include Lidl international supermarket, which is slated to open this summer; Southern Post, which has an anticipated construction date of fall 2021; recently opened Pop’s Coffee Co. and the completely redeveloped Chick-fil-A at Roswell Town Center.
Stroud closed his presentation with a few exciting announcements for what’s to come in the year ahead. Roswell Inc just launched their new COVID-19 Assistance Hub, an expansion of their popular Business Bulletin. The new hub consists of multiple pages to make information even easier to navigate. Stroud also announced that international fulfillment solutions provider GreyOrange is opening its global headquarters in Roswell. The $1.3 million investment project will bring an estimated 200 jobs to the city! Lastly, Roswell’s growing craft beverage industry will welcome it’s second distillery in 2021. The Artillery Room at Gate City is slated to open later this year.
Steve’s presentation was followed by Mayor Lori Henry’s State of the City address, which highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the city, Roswell’s new strategic plan, the Mayor’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s Movie Task Force. You can watch the Mayor’s full presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc4LIULf9eo.