Hat Trick

U.S. Soccer is moving to Atlanta, joining the World Cup and Atlanta United as wins for the city and the sport.

With a $50 million assist from Arthur Blank, U.S. Soccer is making Atlanta its home, while more suppliers follow Hyundai’s e-mobility lead, and sustainable packaging and a massive data center fueled by green energy propel the state’s sprint toward the future. 

Atlanta Scores Another Goal 

The U.S. Soccer Federation is moving its headquarters from Chicago to Atlanta and opening its first national training center for all 27 national teams. The organization made the announcement on Sept. 15 and plans to reveal the site for its home and training center in January. 

“This national training center will accelerate the growth of soccer in this country and will represent a commitment to developing elite soccer players for decades to come,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a press release. 

A $50 million donation by Arthur Blank is facilitating the move. Part of that money will go to build facilities for the national cerebral palsy, deaf, and power wheelchair teams. “America’s top athletes deserve the best when it comes to preparing them for competition on the global stage, and I’m thrilled that U.S. Soccer has chosen metro Atlanta as its new home,” Blank said. 

U.S. Soccer also cited the role of the Coca-Cola Company, a longtime sponsor, in bringing the organization to Atlanta. 

Soccer is on the rise in Atlanta. The city will host at least four games during the FIFA World Cup in 2026, and Blank’s Atlanta United, which won the MLS Cup in 2018, has clinched a playoff spot this season. 

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling 

Two more South Korean automotive suppliers have announced plants in Georgia as Hyundai Motor Group has expanded and accelerated its Metaplant America plans in Ellabell. 

Daesol Ausys says it will invest $72 million and create 140 jobs with a facility building luggage boards and luggage covers in West Point. Projected to open in December 2024, the plant could supply makers of electric and gasoline-powered vehicles, including the nearby Kia plant. 

Similarly, DAS promises to create 300 jobs with its $35 million plant building vehicle seats in Metter. With proximity to the Hyundai Metaplant and the Port of Savannah, the facility is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2024. 

The timing for DAS and Daesol syncs with Hyundai’s efforts to open its Metaplant at least three months before its original target of January 2025, as revealed on Sept. 19 by José Muñoz, Hyundai Motor’s president and global chief operating officer. 

At the end of August, Hyundai and LG Energy Solution, another South Korean company, announced that they will increase the investment in their joint venture manufacturing EV battery cells at the Metaplant complex by $2 billion. The battery operation now represents an investment of $4.3 billion, boosting the overall Bryan County project to nearly $7.6 billion and 8,500 jobs. 

Hyundai also signed a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Tech on Sept. 19 to work on employee training and research on hydrogen-fueled vehicles. 

Papering Over Differences 

Sandy Springs-based WestRock is merging with Ireland’s Smurfit Kappa to form the world’s largest packaging company, Smurfit WestRock. Announced Sept. 12, the deal will give a majority of control to Smurfit.  

Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit, Chief Financial Officer Ken Bowles, and board Chairman Irial Finan will hold the same positions in the new company, and Smurfit Kappa shareholders will hold 50.4 percent of the stock in Smurfit WestRock. 

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024 with shareholder approval. Each Smurfit Kappa share will be worth one share of the new company, and each WestRock share will be exchanged for one Smurfit WestRock share and $5. 

Combined, the companies have more than 100,000 employees in 42 countries and had $34 billion in revenue in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Smurfit WestRock will have its headquarters in Dublin and run its North and South American operations from Sandy Springs. 

Also Packing in Peach 

Atlanta-based Pratt Industries, the country’s fifth-largest maker of corrugated packaging, is building its 13th Georgia factory in the Peach County portion of Warner Robins. 

Announcing the $120 million project on Sept. 7, Pratt Global Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt said the facility’s 125 employees will increase the company’s workforce in the state to more than 2,100. The plant is due to open in late 2024. In addition to packaging, the company manufactures 100 percent recycled paper. 

Flipping a Second Switch 

Las Vegas-based Switch plans to build a massive data center in Cartersville. According to Developments of Regional Impact filings with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the facility, named Keep 2.0, will cost $772 million and be equivalent to the length of more than five football fields on a 126-acre site. The first phase is projected to open in the second quarter of 2026. 

The Cartersville Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on Oct. 10 to consider needed zoning changes, which the City Council could approve as soon as Nov. 2.  

Switch’s first Keep facility is a three-building campus in Douglas County. It is one of five exascale (a type of ultra-powerful supercomputing) data center hubs the company has built across the country to lease server space to tech companies.  

Bits and Bytes 

  • South Korea’s CJ Foodville is building a $47 million commercial bakery and food processing facility in Gainesville to support its Tous les Jours cafes, including stores in Doraville, Johns Creek, Riverdale, and Suwanee. Due to open in 2025, the facility is expected to employ 285 people.  

  • The Georgia Restaurant Association has named Stephanie Fischer, a vice president with Vinings-based Paradies Lagardère and the GRA board chairwoman in 2022, as its new president and CEO. She succeeds Karen Bremer, who is retiring after 14 years. A two-month transition begins Oct. 30.

  • Georgia set records for tourism in 2022 with 167.7 million visitors who spent $39.8 billion, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Sept. 12. The visitor total rose 5.1 percent from 2022 and 10.1 percent from the last pre-pandemic year, 2019. The spending was up 15.6 percent from 2022 and 5.2 percent from 2019. Georgia ranks fifth in the nation for overnight tourism.
  • Atlanta-based NCR says its split into NCR Atleos, an ATM company, and NCR Voyix, a digital commerce company, will occur at the close of business on Oct. 16. Both companies will remain in Atlanta and trade on the New York Stock Exchange as NATL (Atleos) and VYX (Voyix).