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Job Sprawl Leader Atlanta Shows Signs of Reversal

11:21 AM EDT on May 10, 2013

When it comes to job sprawl, few regions have been as gung-ho as Atlanta. During the 2000s, Atlanta area employers sprawled at twice the national average. At the end of that decade, only Detroit and Chicago had a greater share of jobs further away from downtown.

Coca Cola is planning to move 500 jobs from the Atlanta exurbs to downtown -- a major break with historical trends. Image: ##

Just one in 10 jobs in the Atlanta region is in the urban core, Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But some Atlanta companies are rethinking the suburbs. Coca-Cola recently decided to move 500 jobs from exurban Cobb County to downtown Atlanta. Other companies, including Panasonic, Athenahealth, ExactTarget, and Asurion Insurance Services have done the same in recent years.

“There’s no stampede yet back to the city,” wrote Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, in an editorial for the AJC. “The long-term thinning of jobs continues." He noted the Brookings study's hypothesis that "job sprawl" slowed during the Great Recession mostly because job loss was greatest in outlying areas. "That was more true in the metro Atlanta area than nationally," LeRoy said.

Brookings reports that 88 percent of the Atlanta region's low-income population lives in the suburbs, but only one-third of the region's suburbanites have access to transit. The suburban residents that do have transit access can still only reach about 17 percent of the region’s jobs within 90 minutes, according to another Brookings study.

Coca-Cola also moved its Toronto offices downtown, according to the Globe and Mail.

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