ChooseATL Puts The 'South' In South By Southwest

Mar 10, 2017

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conference and festival in Austin, Texas.

It brings together global innovators in media, entertainment, music and film for a week of concerts and conversations. 

The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s marketing arm ChooseATL is bringing a number of musicians, entrepreneurs and local companies to Austin this weekend.

I talked to Kate Atwood, Executive Director of ChooseATL, about the plans for this year's festival.

Interview Highlights:

On Choose ATL returning to SXSW:

Over the past 20 years SXSW has gone from just a music festival and it's added layers. It's become bigger and bigger as more and more industries have wanted to jump on board. In the past three to five years, it's become a major convening force for economic development organizations and for cities and countries to market themselves.

And then this is year three of the job fair. About three years ago they really started to get into a strategic place for talent. They knew that a lot of young people were coming here, whether they were coming as a fan, as an entrepreneur, or just as a learning experience.

So what they've done is they’ve gotten smart and really created an experience for that talent.

So it makes sense for ChooseATL with the mission to attract talent to go and meet the talent where they're at, and have this kind of big moment where we bring to life Atlanta out there in Austin, Texas.

On attracting individuals to the city vs. attracting companies

Atlanta is experiencing such growth in companies. We're becoming more of an innovation center and our entrepreneurial ecosystem is as strong as ever. We almost needed a response to that.

What's happened with the millennial generation is that they've really shifted the paradigm in how they choose jobs and how they choose where to live. They have more choice in both so they're more mobile and they're more entrepreneurial.

They don't necessarily have to move to a city just for a job. And that's what's exciting about ChooseATL is that we kind of come to life in a way that we're the direct connection to that individual.

How we show up and tell Atlanta's story is super important to stay competitive in the global economy.

So we'll go out to SXSW and really obviously highlight a lot of our tech jobs.

You know Atlanta is really unique because it has a lot of industry. I mean, we're number three in film now, so you can't even ignore that.

But we have over 10,000 tech jobs here in Atlanta, and a lot of those are with B2B companies.

It makes our talent recruitment for our B2B companies a little bit harder, because the brand awareness may not be there.

So ChooseATL really helps give those companies kind of a consumer-facing lens to Atlanta.

On bringing big name Atlanta musicians Jermaine Dupri and Rich Homie Quan to perform at the ChooseATL house

It's really been a fascinating study to learn about what catches the attention of this target audience, which we commonly refer to as this Millennial talent.

What is really important to them is not just the particular job that they're looking at securing but what is the color of their life around that job when they choose a place to launch their career and to live. We've positioned our strategy around not just being a catalyst for those jobs and that career, but amplifying culture.

We have to do a better job of showcasing to the world the music that is made here, and the music that comes out of Atlanta.

Jermaine Dupri is certainly somebody who changed the game for Atlanta on the music map, and Rich Homie Quan is a great example of the influence that our culture and our music has around the world.

We'll also have Kick The Robot, which is a trio of 23-year-old young Atlanta boys and they are all rock. So we will showcase certainly the hip-hop and the rap which is Atlanta is known for, but we really have great diversity in our music. We really need to do a better job of reconnecting that tether that we are a live music city and we are a recording city.

We kind of have it all! That just brings the cool factor. And you know what? If you're going to show up, you've got to show up cool.

So we're bringing out the cool factor for sure that we'll get a lot of these young people in our house and getting to experience Atlanta in the way that we feel is authentic and exciting.

On fighting stereotypes about Atlanta and the south

There is a bit of this that is about perception busting. But the great thing about Atlanta is we don't have to make anything up.

Our job isn't to necessarily try to spin a story or anything. Our job is just to open up a lens so that people can see authentically what Atlanta is about. And I think Atlanta is rich in history about being inclusive and progressive.

That is a passion point for young people. Another passion point for young people is being able to roll up their sleeves and get involved . I think Atlanta is a great home base to be able to do that.

So rarely can you as a young person come in and be right on the front lines of building a city, of growing a city, especially in a time where we need people to step up and to be vocal and to be engaged.

So we actually really lean into that and try to make a big effort to engage young people in civic and social issues so that again we don't have to spin anything.

They're telling their own story to the world.

And that tether is all tied back to the difference in the impact that they're making in Atlanta.

Atlanta can be the most promising city for these young people in such a time because it's certainly our history and we certainly are inviting the young people to have an impact here today.