The importance of a high-tech reputation in Georgia

The Georgia Research Alliance is a public-private partnership of business, the state’s research universities and state government focused on strengthening our economy. Specifically, our programs are aimed at capitalizing on innovative university research and development to build a technology-rich economy in our state and to have Georgia viewed nationally as a leading technology state.

Why is it important for our state to have a high tech reputation? It has been proven that high tech jobs – especially the jobs in fields such as computers and communications or biotechnology – attract our most educated workers, who, in turn, earn the largest salaries. This workforce is the key to building successful, growth-oriented companies that lead to sustainable economic growth.

Georgia’s most valuable public companies – companies like Coca-Cola, United Parcel Service, Home Depot, BellSouth and Southern Company – have integrated new technologies into every aspect of their business. They use technology to enter new markets, to manage costs, and to provide them with a competitive advantage.

At the other end of the spectrum, high tech startups are driven by entrepreneurial energy and imaginative thinking. They make possible the medical advances that are so important to our quality of life and develop the sophisticated tools that impact businesses of every size.

As you might expect, the development and use of technology is strongly influencing the distribution of economic growth in the United States. This growth is distributed unevenly in what economists call “clusters,” with winners and losers. Our challenge is to make sure that Georgia is a winner.

How are we doing? Just 20 years ago, Georgia lagged behind other states in high tech development. Today, American Electronics Association rankings place Georgia 11th in the size of its science and technology workforce. And we rank in the top 5 in the nation in how fast that workforce is growing.

In the vital and emerging field of biotechnology, Ernst & Young ranks Georgia 9th in the nation in number of biotech companies. In fact, for the past seven years we have been growing these companies nearly twice as fast as the national average.

Georgia has, of course, suffered with the rest of the nation from the downturns in the technology industry – but less so than many other states.

What do we need to do to keep the momentum going? The Georgia Research Alliance will to continue to focus its programs on capitalizing on the economic impact potential of the discoveries coming from our research universities. We have already helped to build a research enterprise that spends $1 billion annually – expenditures comparable to many of our largest companies.

We will continue our successful strategy of attracting the world’s leading scientists to our universities to develop and direct innovative research programs with the most significant prospects of growing our economy. We will continue to invest in the laboratories and equipment our university researchers must have to stay ahead of the competition.

We will continue to move the technologies they develop into the marketplace where they become the basis for new businesses, the creation of new high-tech jobs and a pathway for established companies to expand their markets and increase their profits.

And, we will continue to ensure that the impact of the Georgia Research Alliance is felt in many parts of the state. For example, in Hall County a few years ago we brought some researchers from the University of Georgia together with the folks at the Georgia Poultry Lab in Oakwood to develop diagnostic tests for infectious bronchitis virus in chickens. This year we are returning to help to provide new equipment needed for Newcastle Disease surveillance.

In Jesup, Georgia Tech scientists are working with Rayonier to build prototypes of new composite materials they may sell. A bit further west, in Douglas, researchers from Georgia State University helped Optima Chemical Company gain a larger share of the pharmaceuticals market. Throughout South Georgia, farmers are using the latest technologies developed by University of Georgia scientists to help them manage their farms more effectively.

Most importantly, in collaboration with many other businesses, civic and governmental organizations throughout the state, we will build on our successes to bring economic prosperity and a superior quality of life to Georgians.

C. Michael Cassidy is president of the Georgia Research Alliance, a strategic partnership of Georgia’s research universities, joined by the business community and state government, whose purpose is to leverage the State’s research capabilities into economic development results. Before joining the Alliance in 1993, Cassidy managed the Advanced Technology Development Center, Georgia’s technology incubator.

Prior to that, Mike worked for IBM Corporation where he held various positions. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech and a BA degree in marketing from Georgia State. Cassidy represents the state on several different councils and consults with other states on issues of science and technology policy and economic development. He serves on several boards including Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures, the SciTrek Museum, and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

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