Rail giant Norfolk Southern opened a gleaming new headquarters in Midtown Wednesday, a consolidation of more than 3,000 jobs that state and city leaders said would reverberate throughout Georgia.
Attending the ribbon-cutting at the glass tower on West Peachtree Street, Gov. Brian Kemp said the move is yet more proof of Georgia’s attractive business climate and a logistics network that has made the state globally competitive.
The company had long kept a technology and operations hub in near the High Museum of Art on Peachtree Street in Midtown, but decided to consolidate functions at a new space, moving the headquarters down from Norfolk, Va.
In a way, it was a homecoming. Norfolk Southern was formed in 1982 with the merging of the Norfolk & Western with the Southern Railway, the latter having a history that stretched back to the 1840s in Atlanta. The city itself was formed in as a settlement at the southern end — or Terminus — of the Western & Atlantic Railroad the state built in 1836 to connect with Chattanooga, Tenn.
Mr. Kemp and others noted that Norfolk Southern, perhaps more than many Georgia-based Fortune 500s, casts a statewide influence, given how its rail map within Georgia creates a vital conduit for other companies getting their products to market here and abroad.
“Goods traversing Norfolk Southern’s rails supply both business and consumer needs across the globe, while also providing the sustainable and efficient rail transpiration Georgia’s booming economy depends on,” Mr. Kemp wrote in prepared remarks, noting that the company employs more than 3,900 people across the state.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., pointed out that the groundbreaking comes just after the passage of a more than $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress that will lead to substantial investments in the state’s railways, ports and highways.
“I think that’s an important piece of work,” Mr. Warnock said. “The way I’ve been talking about it is to say that America needed a home improvement project. It’s good for the economy; it’s good for the spirit of the country.”
Even before that, the state had secured $47 million for an inland port near Gainesville that would allow containers a direct line via rail to and from the Port of Savannah, he said.
Construction on the new office, dubbed “Project Fusion,” began in 2019 and was completed during the coronavirus pandemic, a serendipitous development given how the pandemic has shifted workplace trends.
“To be a leader in today’s rapidly evolving transportation and logistics market, the company needed to be more agile and work more collaboratively across organizational boundaries,” Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Annie Adams said in a statement. “Our new building brings us together in a central location, which was designed to boost collaboration and innovation.”
Speaking in an expansive ground-floor lobby clad in stone with light streaming in from glass windows and in front of a massive spiral sculpture with the height of multiple floors, Ms. Adams said the 750,000-square-foot Tech Square facility incorporates many features that will make working in a post-pandemic environment more desirable: touchless technology, “hospital-grade” air filtration, open workspaces with sit-stand desks “bathed in natural light,” two floors of flexible space, outdoor plazas “blanketed in Wifi” and more.
The space includes a food hall with six restaurant concepts, a fitness center, the on-site “Tiny Tracks” daycare, an artist-in-residence studio and The Wye, a cafe that is open to the public. Technology will be woven into the employee experience, as they will be able to order food and coffee via an app and reserve the day’s parking spot in a deck that includes free electric-vehicle charging.
“They’ve truly thought of everything,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who admired the fact that busy working parents can even take home ready-to-cook meals.
Other executives touted the LEED-certified building’s environmental bona fides and how they reflect on an old industry’s newfound focus on sustainability.
In his remarks, CEO Jim Squires said rail is the most efficient way to move goods over land, and keeping trucks off the road reduces carbon emissions while relieving stress on taxpayer-funded highways.
“We like to say that we are in the business of a better planet,” he said.