Sunday, June 25, 2017

Atlanta Economy

When I worked at the Monsanto HQ in St. Louis in the 1960s, I had to take United Airlines from St. Louis to Atlanta to get my connecting flight on Southern Airlines to the Greenwood SC Nylon Plant. My flight was always stacked up and my connecting flight always left before my plane landed.  So, I went to the counter, cashed in my ticket and rented a rental car.  I had to cross over all 4 lanes of I-85 to get into the I-85 North lane.  I always beat the “southern superball” to Greenwood. 

I learned then that the Atlanta airport didn’t work and the highway connectors in Atlanta were suicidal.  But the landscape was impressive. The Southeast is a forest and the weather is moderate. Later I learned that “nobody leaves Atlanta”. I found that everybody Monsanto tried to transfer out of Atlanta quit, so they could stay in Atlanta. I was living in Weldon Springs in St. Charles County Mo in the 1960s. One day my wife asked me where I thought we would end up living.  I told her that if we were smart, we would move to Atlanta.   Instead, we move to Salina Kansas in 1975 and stayed until 1983, when we finally moved to Atlanta.

My new job at Hayes Microcomputer Products was in Norcross, but we bought our home in Dunwoody. My wife immediately enrolled in the Dental Hygiene School at the Dunwoody Community College campus. My oldest daughter joined her in Hygiene school in 1984. My wife fell in love with the flowers, trees, bushes and weather in Atlanta.

In 1983, the Atlanta Metro population was about 3 million and the town was booming. Atlanta had been a major market town in the Southeast with Coke, Delta and the banks, but it was not a manufacturing town. Despite this, Atlanta was becoming an electronics manufacturing hub and the workforce was ecstatic.  

Atlanta was selected by the electronics industries at a third-tier location.  The electronica Mecca was in California and the West Coast. Secondary locations included Texas and Massachusetts and the Northeast.  Atlanta and Florida’s coastal cities and other cities formed the third tier.

My first task at Hayes was to establish a formal compensation system. I needed salary survey data and it was limited.  The American Electronics Association had a good survey, but we needed a local survey to determine true market pay rates. I had always been a member of ASPA, the American Society for Personnel Administration and got my survey data from their local chapters and served as the District Director of ASPA for Kansas.  I contacted the Atlanta ASPA chapter and asked where I could find the surveys. They didn’t have one, so I started the Metro Atlanta High Tech Personnel Association.  We had 45 electronics companies and monthly meetings for HR staffs of member companies.  I conducted the first survey myself, got real market data and got these companies to participate in the AEA survey as well.

The electronics boom lasted 30 years and it was a great ride.

Norb Leahy, Dunwoody GA Tea Party Leader

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