Atlanta creates $1 million tax break for new tech firms, joins tech-based health campaign

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s efforts to promote the technology industry now include a $1 million tax exemption for new and emerging businesses and an innovation campaign sponsored by the National League of Cities.

Hackathon

Atlanta was named by the National League of Cities to join in a campaign to develop tech-based solutions to health problems. A similar program was conducted last year by Forge, a start-up community of developers. Credit: ventureatlanta.org

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday commended a tax exemption the Atlanta City Council approved overwhelmingly at its meeting Monday.

The exemption is limited to either the first three years of operations, or the first $1 million in gross receipts, according to the legislation. In addition, the exemption waives the $50 zoning determination fee, though businesses still require zoning approval.

“Entrepreneurs coming to Atlanta have told us that the best thing we can do to support them is to make it easy for them to conduct business in the City,” Reed said in a statement released by his office.  “Fostering this type of environment now will pay dividends for us well into the future as we continue to position Atlanta as a destination for technology and innovation.”

The legislation was promoted by Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm. CEO Craig Richard said the tax exemption continues Atlanta’s efforts to attract and retain tech firms.

Supporters include Paul Judge, a founder of TechSquare Labs, which is involved with Invest Atlanta’s $70 million investment in the future Tech Square Tower, which is to provide turn-key housing for students who hope to develop some sort of innovative idea, as well as for entrepreneurs who have an office at Tech Square. Residents are to mingle and brainstorm and have access to an on-site mentor.

Tech Square Tower

Tech Square Tower is to be developed in Midtown with funding from Invest Atlanta with the goal of promoting Atlanta’s tech industry. Credit: Invest Atlanta

“Efforts like this [tax break] send a clear message: the City of Atlanta wants startups to be successful,” Judge said in a statement. “Opportunities like this serve as building blocks of a foundation that will attract more entrepreneurs like me and establish a solid network for innovation and collaboration.”

The National League of Cities named Atlanta as one of 25 communities in which it is expanding its Multi-City Innovation Campaign. It appears to be along the same lines of Forge Atlanta’s first health hackathon, conducted last year at Georgia Tech. Participants had 34 hours to devise a technology solutions to health care problems.

NLc started its program last year in four cities, including two that sometimes are cited at competitors of metro Atlanta: Nashville, Raleigh, Palo Alto and Nashville.

Atlanta is joining the ranks with a number of other regional competitors in this year’s expansion: Austin, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Durham.

The purpose of the program is provide an incentive for the development of technology that promotes public health. The campaign has identified six themes, though it encourages tech firms and entrepreneurs to submit ideas in other areas.

Prototypes that are adopted by a city or state partner can receive $5,000 from each government that adopts it, up to a total of $120,000, according to NLC’s description of the program.

Here are the six categories and one example of each:

  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Care (Diabetes, Heart Disease, Asthma, HIV/Aids): Air Quality: Monitoring pollution in urban areas to combat asthma.
  • Emergency Health Care System – Reducing unnecessary costs and improving response times: Identifying, supporting and preventing high frequency “super-users” of Emergency Care services.
  • Health, Food and Exercise: Improving access and incentives to healthy eating and community facilities: Better awareness and encouragement to use parks / trails (e.g. Explorer apps or Bluetooth enabled signage in high traffic areas noting walking distance to popular destination points).
  • Health & Transportation – Encouraging active lifestyles and alternative transportation: Tools to improve Multi-modal wayfinding (e,g, Waze for bikers, supporting bike to bus to bike paths)
  • Health & Housing: Ensuring healthy living standards for vulnerable populations: Improving tools and methods for reporting and housing code inspections to ensure affordable housing is safe.
  • Mental Health: Better methods and tools for enrolling the prison population in mental health care.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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