Blanc & Otus shutters Atlanta office

ATLANTA: Blanc & Otus has closed its Atlanta office, blaming the region's weak technology market.

ATLANTA: Blanc & Otus has closed its Atlanta office, blaming the region's weak technology market.

The area once had its fair share of tech companies, according to Greg Spector, agency president and CEO. But the market has dried up, and new companies are not settling in the region.

B&O has had the office, which was previously part of SocketPR, since 2002. Hill & Knowlton, which owns B&O, acquired Socket in 2000, and merged the agency into B&O two years later, giving B&O a presence in Atlanta and Austin.

Spector noted that the agency's San Francisco, Boston, and Austin offices are still doing well. The Atlanta office's five employees have been offered jobs in other B&O or H&K offices with open positions.

But not everyone in Atlanta shares Spector's take on the market. Laura Borgstede, CEO of the telecommunications-focused firm Calysto Communications, contends that the market is as strong as it's ever been. But she admitted that it's tough for a tech specialist to survive with just tech clients from the Atlanta area, and that many of her clients are from outside Atlanta.

Peter Baron, founder of Socket and now principal of Carabiner Communications, suggested that an agency can do just fine in the region with the right client mix and business model.

He noted, for instance, that larger tech companies such as Cingular Wireless, Earthlink, and Internet Security Systems are based in the region, but they tend to work with larger agencies based elsewhere.

"I'm more focused on entrepreneurial start-ups," he said. "There are several agencies here that are doing well. But the big firms with large salaries and big profit margins can't focus just on tech."

Baron said he is seeing growth in particular sectors, including security and enterprise software.

"The area is coming back," he said. "It was like it was when in 1992 when I started Socket."

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