ATLANTA — Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company plans to make metro Atlanta a major hub as it embarks on a significant expansion.
The tech giant is adding two regional data centers and could bring thousands of jobs to 90 acres of land it bought in recent months on the city’s Westside.
“You don’t buy 90 acres if you don’t have plans to grow substantially,” Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview.
He declined to provide specific details or a timetable, beyond saying the company would set aside a quarter of the development for affordable housing before building any offices.
But Smith placed Microsoft’s potential growth here in the context of its two largest locations — metro Seattle, where about 62,000 Microsoft employees are based, and Silicon Valley and San Francisco, which have a combined 7,000 employees.
All of Microsoft’s business divisions will have workers assigned to Atlanta, Smith said. The company’s businesses range from cloud computing to consumer products like Word and Excel.
“It will be one of our important hubs,” he said.
Microsoft declined to say how many workers it currently employs in metro Atlanta, but it’s likely around 1,000. It operates a corporate sales office in Alpharetta and an innovation center downtown, which provides a “comprehensive set of technology, tools and services to startups, governments, students and faculty,” according to the company.
The company is already in the process of hiring and moving 1,500 workers into a new office near Atlantic Station. The $75 million project, announced last year, is focused on cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
Smith said the company will have 2,500 workers in metro Atlanta once the Atlantic Station office opens.
Georgia’s emphasis on workforce training helped attract Microsoft, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a Thursday news conference.
“If you build anything, if you don’t have people to work in that facility it doesn’t make sense to do that,” Kemp said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she stressed that Microsoft should recruit from a wide range of the Atlanta community, to “make sure we’re getting people in the line for technical training, providing mentorships to people who may have family members” who have not attended college.
The broader expansion should burnish Atlanta’s reputation as a regional tech hub that provides a diverse workforce. Microsoft will recruit heavily from Georgia Tech and Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College, three historically black colleges and universities. It’s already developed a relationship with the Atlanta University Center colleges, partnering with Morehouse to provide tablets to all new students.