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Metro Business Thought Leader

Atlanta a global hub for technology innovation

By Larry Williams
Vice President, Technology Industry Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber

A recently released report on the state of Georgia’s technology industry has aimed a spotlight on some of the most exciting and encouraging news for the future of the economy, not just in Georgia and Atlanta, but in the United States and even globally.

The Technology Association of Georgia’s report, done in partnership with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, shows us that innovation will truly lead us out of the current recession.
Among the report’s key findings: Georgia companies producing technology products and providing technology services generated an economic impact of $113.1 billion in total industry sales in 2011. The tech industry also contributed 17 percent to the state’s GDP. That is a significant statistic.

We hear a lot of political speeches these days about job creation and the importance of growing jobs. But, with this report, we hear the private sector speaking loud and clear. The technology industry has become a very powerful economic engine, poised to drive huge economic improvements, including the creation of new jobs.
Not only that, the technology industry has become the nexus of transformational developments that are changing the way we do business, the way we communicate, the way we find entertainment and the way we live our day-to-day lives.

Consider that a recent Gartner report estimates that worldwide IT spending is projected to total $2.7 trillion in 2012. According to Gartner, some 350 companies will each invest more than $1 billion in IT this year.

To give those whopping figures some context, the report goes on to say that a significant portion of that spending will be on applications in the cloud services area, in data warehousing and in mobility. Right now, it’s about content, about storage of that content, about access to that content and about the security of that content.

For Atlanta, that’s great news. Our region stands as a hub for these trends and a hub for the development of products and services to address these trends. We have tremendous assets. We have top research universities, innovative companies, capital and funding sources, and the bright minds and leadership.

And we have the market. We have companies that deploy some of the most cutting-edge mobile solutions in the world. You only have to look at what The Home Depot Inc., UPS and Delta Air Lines Inc. are doing with bar code reading, shipment tracking and social media programs to know that if you want the world’s top customers in your back yard, your company needs to be here.
In a mobile, on-demand world, people want immediate online access through their smart phones and tablets, and their laptops as they sit in coffee shops. They want quality content, such as news and entertainment and they want to know that personal data, from an online photo album to a bank account password, is secure. Those wants and needs drive a lot of what we call the cloud.
From an economic development standpoint, the cloud is not a cloud, but a data center housed in Atlanta or Gwinnett County, managed by technicians and engineers educated at Georgia Tech or a local community college. The quality content comes from CNN or The Weather Channel and the entertainment is supplied by a start-up gaming company.

Dramatic and sweeping changes in the technology field are giving rise to ongoing needs for the creation of new technology efficiencies and problem-solving skills. That’s leading to multi-tier job creation – and the technology field supports some of the most high-paying jobs of any industry.

It also gets down to smart people. Today’s economy is an innovation-based economy and driving this innovation are the brightest minds and best problem solvers. These are people who enjoy the challenge of creating something new – a new product or service – to respond to a need that has never existed.

For this current generation of innovation, the brightest minds are gathered around technology. This is the industry that is the catalyst for delivering a whole new way to engage products, get services and interact. These are the innovators creating new patentable products, the entrepreneurs driving ideas and products to market and the leaders of companies that are reinventing the way we do business.

Atlanta is poised to continue to be a global leader in the technology field, with great growth potential. We are already a global hub for mobility and we need to make sure that we are positioned to continue creating the next generation of innovation.

But there is a work to do.

We need to continue to prepare our workforce for the new jobs that are being created by next-generation technology and for the needs that are coming out of the trends in the technology field.

We also need to think of ourselves as a global tech hub and not just a regional center for technology. We need to let people know that Atlanta’s tech market is 13,000-companies strong, and that events like Venture Atlanta have provided nearly $1 billion in funding to date for innovative companies, mostly in the tech sector. We are already walking the walk, now we need to start actually talking the walk and get our story out there.

Atlanta may not roll off the tongue like Silicon Valley or Austin or Boston, but the assets and the innovation are all right here.

View Key Findings and full report here.


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