Atlanta has the largest concentration of government and financial offices in the Southeast. Major public and population-serving employers include the Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Society, the State of Georgia, WellStar Health Systems and Emory University.
The city is one of the nation’s leading business centers, with a total of 13 Fortune 500 companies and more than 70 percent of the nation's Fortune 1000 companies maintaining a presence in the region. Large employers include Delta and Home Depot, as well as United Parcel Service (UPS) and Cox Communications. The last two companies chose to relocate to Atlanta to take advantage of the high-quality work force, low cost of doing business and established transportation infrastructure.
The Atlanta metro is comprised of 20 counties. The most populated are Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb. The metro's population expanded during the past decade to around 5.4 million. The rate of growth will slow, rising just 1.4 percent over the next five years. With 445,500 residents, Atlanta is the largest city in the metro and the state capital. Other large cities include Sandy Springs, Roswell, Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Marietta.
The Chattahoochee River and Stone Mountain are the most prominent geological features in the area. Stone Mountain, located east of Atlanta, is a major part of a granite vein running through the region. With few natural barriers to limit development, tremendous population growth over the past decade pushed out the metro's borders. New redevelopment projects downtown that provide housing, entertainment and retail opportunities, however, are drawing residents back into the city center.