Technology thriving

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta has a reputation for attracting and breeding entrepreneurs, especially the tech savvy. Fast Magazine, which chronicles trends in technology, innovation and leadership, recently named our city the next technology hub. Today, a local chamber executive charts the region’s technology growth, while a counterpart does likewise for Chattanooga, an emerging tech city.

Commenting is open below Sam Williams’ column.

By J. Ed Marston

Chattanooga may have seemed an unlikely candidate to emerge as a tech hub, but recent announcements reveal an entrepreneurial scene that’s been bubbling to a boil for some time.

On Dec. 10, Access America, a tech-oriented logistics company founded in Chattanooga by three entrepreneurs in 2002, unveiled plans to more than double its 425-person workforce while growing its annual revenues of $382 million to over $1 billion.

In North Chattanooga, Woople, a revolutionary e-learning web application, is celebrating its three-year anniversary, having delivered over 30 million minutes of user-generated educational video to more than 130,000 e-learners. And newly formed Variable Technologies is flush with orders thanks to a Forbes article entitled “NODE: What Every Techie Wants for Christmas.” It praised the company’s cutting-edge, palm-sized wireless sensor that works with a smartphone.

Here’s how Chattanooga is fueling the entrepreneurial fire for tech innovations:

— Step 1: Establish America’s first Gig City. In 2010, EPB, Chattanooga’s municipally-owned utility, began operating America’s first community-wide Gig Network. With fiber to more than 172,000 homes and businesses in a 600-square-mile area, the network can deliver data speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second. Claris Networks, a cloud-computing company, quickly discovered it was cheaper and easier to deliver its services from Chattanooga to other markets, causing them to relocate most of their technical infrastructure here.

Chattanooga-based Diagnostic Radiology Consultants enjoys increased productivity equivalent to adding another doctor to the group because it can spend more time reading images and less time waiting on downloads and uploads. Meanwhile, Chattanooga-based Global Green Lighting is installing network-controlled LED street lights across the city that will save taxpayers an estimated 75 percent on bills.

— Step 2: Serve as the nation’s living laboratory for the Internet of the future. Being located in Chattanooga gives companies a head start on pioneering and defining the ultra-bandwidth Internet every city will eventually enjoy. National tech players are taking notice.

Chattanooga served as the model community of the future during a White House press conference announcing the U.S. Ignite initiative to develop next generation infrastructure and applications. The utility has already used its fiber optic network to deploy the nation’s most advanced and automated Smart Grid. Many cities impacted by Hurricane Sandy and other storms look to Chattanooga for guidance.

Alcatel-Lucent, Warner Brothers, CISCO and IBM all invested in the first GigTank, which brought entrepreneurs and students from all over the world to Chattanooga to spend 100 days developing ultra-bandwidth applications with room, board and seed capital provided.

Banyan, which won last summer’s Gig Tank for developing a platform for scientific researchers to collaborate on massive data files, recently announced it is moving to Chattanooga because of its founders missed the speed and productivity of the Gig Network.

— Step 3: Enrich the pipeline of tech talent. Chattanooga is amping up its talent pipeline with a new STEM High School and Innovation Hub to provide project-based learning in science, technology, engineering and math to students. Chattanooga State and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offer excellent post-secondary programs in technical fields.

Chattanooga has also launched GeekMove, a relocation incentive for experienced programmers and others with technical expertise. Currently, applications are open for 10 relocation incentives, including which include a $10,000 forgivable second mortgage and $1,250 for relocation expenses. Details are available at

The foundation for these strategies is excellent collaboration among government officials, investors, private companies, foundations, accelerators, the Chattanooga Chamber’s INCubator and institutions of K-12 and higher education. The success of Chattanooga’s tech companies bespeaks the quality of that cooperation. That’s the Chattanooga Way of doing things.

J. Ed Marston is vice president of marketing and communication for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Atlanta tech hub rises

By Sam Williams

Atlanta stands as one of the country’s most significant and innovative technology hubs.

That standing is partly based on a history of success in attracting and growing top technology companies. Our world-class universities and our ability to develop a critical mass of companies in the field has provided the foundation for a true global center for technology business.

The decades-long building of our technology ecosystem is what has kept Atlanta years ahead of industry changes. It has kept our city at the forefront of key developments across the technology industry.

Georgia Tech, Emory University and Georgia State University are global leaders in technology and bioscience degree programs. Companies headquartered here are some of the world’s largest and most influential.

From the early days of Peachtree Software, which revolutionized accounting software, to the kick-off of pioneers like Scientific Atlanta and McKesson Corp., Atlanta technology companies have always stretched the boundaries of innovation and shaped the way the world thinks about technology, its uses and products.

Georgia now has some 13,000 technology companies employing 250,000 technology workers. It is home to pioneers like AT&T Mobility, CNN and Damballa Inc., each of which represent next-generation technology development and talent.

Meanwhile, we continue to grow numerous new technology stars through stellar incubators like the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). Stand-out ATDC graduates include Theragenics Corp. and CardioMEMs, Inc.

Atlanta has become what industry leaders describe as the technology ecosystem of the real world. We have the people and companies that drive the content – companies like The Weather Channel and Turner Broadcasting System. We make the software and provide the best in Internet security through companies like IBM Internet Security Systems. We process the payments through companies like Global Payments Inc., and we do the most innovative research and development in the industry. Some 70 percent of all credit card and debit transactions that are handled in the U.S. are handled by companies based in Georgia.

Atlanta also holds the key to long-term technology growth. We have targeted and developed key strengths in the most vibrant areas for growth, such as financial technology, health care IT, e-commerce, logistics/supply chain software and mobility. Just about every technology company in the world is developing a mobility strategy. Atlanta stands at the epicenter of mobile technology development.

Atlanta also is fortunate to provide a talented, creative and diverse workforce due to the region’s proximity to 57 colleges and universities with more than 250,000 enrolled students. Top-ranked university business programs continue to produce talent to aid in technology business development.

Every year, a new class of students matriculate at Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Emory University, the University of Georgia, our historically black colleges and universities, and dozens of institutions close to our city. The national reputation of these schools allows Atlanta technology companies to have first choice among the brightest students.

We are busy growing the next generation of innovation, from engineering software research to health IT applications coming out of Emory University, to Kennesaw State University’s mobile apps lab. Companies are doing the same through initiatives like the GE Smart Grid Technology Center of Excellence and the Novelis Global Research & Technology Center, which opened in Kennesaw in June.

Metro Atlanta has a significant market access advantage over competitors, driven in large part by Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. Our global and U.S. market accessibility is crucial to our success.

Atlanta also has the customers. We are ranked No. 3 by Forbes Magazine among top cities with the most Fortune 500 companies. These are companies committed to supporting entrepreneurial growth.

We are a technology founder and leader based on decades of success and a consistent, pervasive focus on this field. Atlanta will remain one of the world’s most important global technology hubs.

Sam Williams is president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

6 comments Add your comment

Zig Zag

December 20th, 2012
10:47 pm

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the folks in Atlanta and Chattanooga realized that their cities are part of a region, and started collaborating rather than dissing or ignoring each other. They might really accomplish something!


December 20th, 2012
6:25 pm

I have a 20 minute bike ride to work; walk to restaurants, bars, and entertainment; take the train to the airport; use my car only once or twice a week for errands; and don’t sit in traffic congestion for two hours every day. And I live in Atlanta. If you drive to downtown Chattanooga OR downtown Atlanta and park your car there are plenty of things to do on foot. And if you go beyond downtown Chattanooga you will definitely find congestion. I have crawled through the interstate system on many occasions trying to get from one side to the other. Chattanooga is cute, a nice place to visit, and has a number of progressive initiatives underway. It’s also a very small city with a geography that you would not find livable based on your criteria even if you just doubled the population (and it would still be only a fraction of Atlanta’s size).

Atlanta has its problems but you can certainly live here without spending all of your time stuck in traffic. And then you have plenty of time to enjoy the wealth of cultural, educational, and professional opportunities, not to mention the global connectivity. And be careful about overselling the idyllic life in Chattanooga. Before long you’ll be living in Murfreesboro complaining about how bad things are in Chattanooga.


December 19th, 2012
4:22 pm

I visit every so often because I love parking, getting out, and walking throughout a city, Chatt being a prime example (that and we do some work over in Cleveland). I’d move there in a heart beat if the right job prospect presented itself. I like it almost as much as Portland for the same reasons.


December 19th, 2012
2:49 pm

MANGLER good point! In fact, ATL’s congestion is why I called it quit there after 15 years and headed north to Chattanooga. The number of people that I’ve met 20 and 30 something that could have lived anywhere and chose Chattanooga is really amazing. I love ATL and still visit often, but now I love my life and not my car. Come up and visit and you’ll see for yourself.


December 19th, 2012
1:19 pm

Chattanooga doesn’t have the congestion issues Atlanta has. Obviously it’s because that’s a much smaller region, 750,000 vs. 5,600,000. But as they grow, they will have learned from our troubles. Driving 3 hours to get to the big airport once in a while compared to sitting in congestion 2 hours a day seems an easy trade-off.


December 19th, 2012
11:14 am

While the Atlanta region does have a good representation of technology based companies I am not sure I would say it is a “Technology Hub”. Many of those employed by local tech companies are employed in non-technical roles or at best semi-technical roles like sales and customer service. At one point the Technology Park area was a hub for high-tech manufacturing, but for many reason those companies have left for due to corporate consolidation, cheaper labor or friendlier regulatory climates.

The State of Georgia really needs to do more to encourage entrepreneurial growth associated with the various Universities by setting up more High Tech Incubators and providing seed money. Also, we need to focus on ways to increase the manufacturing presence around the metro area.