AT&T will move hundreds of jobs into the city of Atlanta over the next year as it expands its push into no-contract wireless service, a company executive said.
The decision helps the city in its efforts to boost jobs. But it’s also another example of metro Atlanta suburban operations eyeing moves intown, bucking trends of past decades.
The jobs, in AT&T’s new Cricket Wireless subsidiary, will be based near the Lindbergh MARTA station. They include hundreds of positions new to the metro area as well as about 200 that will shift with the relocation of the company’s former Aio Wireless operation now headquartered in Alpharetta, Cricket president Jennifer Van Buskirk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The change stems from AT&T’s recently completed $1.2 billion acquisition of San Diego-based Leap Wireless. Leap included valuable spectrum as well as the Cricket brand, which had about 4.5 million wireless customers for its pay-as-you-go mobile service.
AT&T is combining Cricket with Aio, which AT&T launched last year as a no-contract wireless service. The new unit will operate under the Cricket name.
“We are moving down from Alpharetta into Atlanta in the next several months,” Van Buskirk said. “The whole point of us moving there is because we need more space to handle all the employees.”
She said the company chose an intown location because it matches the traditional customer base for no-contract wireless service.
The company hasn’t finalized decisions about where to put some operations, she said. But the new headquarters will be “of much larger scale” over time and within the next year will include hundreds of jobs new to the region.
Van Buskirk said that while headquarters will be in a building currently leased by AT&T, the goal wasn’t to be based near offices of Cricket’s parent.
“We operate independently,” she said, adding later that “being nimble and agile is particularly important in this space because it changes so frequently.”
Cricket is part of a growing industry movement to provide mobile service on a pay-as-you-go basis without long-term contracts.
Other employers have shown interest in moving from metro Atlanta’s northern suburbs to the city, even as the Atlanta Braves prepare to depart downtown for Cobb County.
Big tech employer NCR has considered moving its Duluth headquarters and as many as 4,000 employees to near Georgia Tech. Payments processor WorldPay said last month that it may put a new tech development operation in the city and could move its entire Sandy Springs-based U.S. headquarters there as well. And last year Atlanta-based Coke decided to relocate about 2,000 information-technology workers from Cobb to the north end of downtown.
The overall economic impact of an employer moving hundreds of jobs from one part of the metro area to another isn’t big, said Bruce Seaman, an associate professor of economics at Georgia State University. Many workers may continue to live where they are and spend money in their home county, he pointed out.
But he said intown moves could help balance growth in the region, “further strengthening the weaker part of the metro area, which has been the city.”