Film Isn’t The Only Industry Boosting Georgia’s Economy

You hear a lot about Georgia’s growing film industry, but the tech industry in our great state is thriving and adding major benefits to Georgia’s economy as well. In the midst of the final few days of the first session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Technology Association of Georgia issued its 2015 State of the Industry report:

One cool aspect is the “Innovation Index” that further breaks down, by county, what the innovation capacity and activity is for that area. Cherokee, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett and Oconee Counties exceeded the national Innovation Index average. As a state, Georgia ranks a little bit below the US average index of 100 at 92.3. We edge out Florida, who ranks with an index of 91.8, and well exceed South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. The only neighboring state that exceeds us is North Carolina with an index of 95.0. Of course, both California and Massachusetts exceed the national average with 112.4 and 114.3, respectively.

Numbers! Great! So what? The numbers give us an idea of where we rank compared to other states in terms of technology innovation, but the devil is in the details. The tech industry here in Georgia has grown by 10% since 2010 and has added about 25,000 jobs to our state’s economy. However, a key finding in the report is that the top need for employers is talent with requisite knowledge. Which would mean a better emphasis on skills, like programming, in education. Of course, that also means finding teachers that could spark interest in technology. It might even be an opportunity for people in our industry to take an approach like Junior Achievement does with financial literacy and entrepreneurship. With mobile devices and an ever-increasing amount of data being generated, we will need skilled people to find innovative ways to sift through the data and present that data in a meaningful sense for decision-makers.

We’re making good progress, but there’s still room for improvement. Feel free to browse the report yourself over at the Technology Association of Georgia’s site.


  1. saltycracker says:

    There are businesses that go where their potential customers are much like big box retailers chasing rooftops. Atlanta metro is certainly a hot spot.

    Then politicians chase the chasers to do something for them with taxpayer funds/breaks that will cause endearment from the companies and party supporters. It takes some vigilance to sort out which move comes first and the good news is most of us can’t identify a deceptive political news conference.

    • saltycracker says:

      Even the jaded get red-faced when the “get on the bandwagon” drive comes after a deal is done and the dust is settling like the M-Benz demo daze and will wait until the air clears… won’t be long.

  2. androidguybill says:

    “However, a key finding in the report is that the top need for employers is talent with requisite knowledge. Which would mean a better emphasis on skills, like programming, in education. Of course, that also means finding teachers that could spark interest in technology.”

    What is actually needed is a bunch – and I do mean a lot and statewide – of magnet and (to the extent that the law allows) merit based STEM-focused high schools. That is the issue. In Georgia, producing the type of STEM talent that is really needed to grow the tech industry requires a bachelor’s degree at one of our better universities (i.e. Georgia Tech, UGA, Georgia State, KSU/SPSU, Emory, Mercer) or a master’s degree (or a degree plus some years of experience) with degrees from some of our other schools. However, other states (think North Carolina, Florida, Texas) have a lot more colleges that produce strong STEM grads than we do. Even worse, some other states – think the west coast – produce industry capable tech talent coming out of high school, and a lot of the tech workers drop out of college or bypass college entirely.

    That isn’t happening in Georgia. Our high schools produce a relatively small number of kids with the “raw materials” to succeed at our few strong STEM schools, but that is about it. What we need is a stronger group of kids heading to some of the other schools – Georgia Southern, Valdosta State, Clayton State, Columbus State, West Georgia et al – which will strengthen the STEM programs and reputations of those universities also. That is how Georgia can produce a huge increase in STEM talent in a relatively short time – about 10 years if the effort to create such schools starts, say, tomorrow – without needing the drastic change to the state’s cultural (or political) climate needed to bring it about otherwise.

    The claim that there is a shortage of people with the skills to teach STEM is a myth. To put it simply, you do not need to be Carl Friedrich Gauss to teach differential equations and chemistry to smart, motivated, well-behaved kids who want to learn it. And you don’t need people to teach the latest, most difficult “industry leading cutting edge” skills: mere competency in stuff that has been around for 20 years would get you hired on the spot in Norcross or Alpharetta tomorrow. We don’t have a shortage of people qualified to teach tech, but rather a shortage of people capable of handling a modern “regular” public high school classroom with all that entails. But create the network of charter or magnet STEM high schools, eliminate for those schools the ridiculous requirement of an education school degree, and you will have tens of thousands of people stuck in neutral on the tech career ladder trading in 70 hour work weeks for the 180 day calendar and public employee perks in the amount of time that it is taking you to read this sentence. (Let me tell you from experience: the tech field only provides glamorous, exciting, high paying jobs for a few, about 25%-35%. For the rest it is mostly a repetitive grind that doesn’t pay much more than middle management and doesn’t offer job security, so a lot of them would be thrilled for a shot at doing something else, so long as something else is better, and putting up with what goes on at most public schools doesn’t qualify as “better.”)

    Now this is something that is NEVER going to happen from the bottom up, because quite frankly for most local school districts, the mentality for such an endeavor isn’t there. Of the 159 counties in Georgia, go ask their school boards how many of them have even thought about a STEM magnet school in their school districts … if more than 10 or 20 claim to have done so I will be shocked, and thinking about it and doing something about it are two different things. And of course, such ideas are opposed by the teacher’s unions, colleges of education, etc. who for ideological reasons support educating all kids in the same classrooms.

    The best way to do so would be some sort of constitutional amendment for the state to create these schools, and then open it up to whoever bids to run them: charter school groups, local school boards, colleges or trade schools etc. But that would require the legislature to write and pass such a law. Sorry, but if you want a (relatively) quick way to dramatically increase the tech talent in this state, that is going to be the way to do it. Georgia was able to handle the last tech boom, the 80s and 90s, mainly by importing the workforce from out of state by attracting people who wanted cheaper real estate, lower taxes, less crime etc. than in other areas of the country. That model isn’t going to be replicated because metro Atlanta is now too dense and expensive, and no other area of the state can support a competitive tech sector (or at least not right now). So the only thing that we can do is get serious about growing our own by changing the educational model in this state.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Talent and skills can be purchased if not produced locally, but that conflicts with policy that seeks a docile low wage workforce beholden to “job creators”.

  3. Workforce readiness, continuing education, and job training are a corporately funded and government-sponsored distraction from the actual issue of horrible hiring practices.

    Recently, I attended a TAG Health IT Gathering down at the Capitol. Three folks stood up and responded to the panel’s voicing of “they need talented folks, but we can’t find them”, and said, “We are talented – we’ve done the continuing ed – we have the skills your’e looking for, but you won’t even give us a look.”

    Hiring practices. The one thing that companies don’t want the government intrusion on, public scrutiny, or internal reform.

    So, I suggest doing away with the idea that somehow the unemployed are strongly correlated to large open positions here in Atlanta. Let’s look at the idea that if these companies wanted to find people, they would. If they wanted to keep people, they would.

    But they don’t, because they don’t want to change their hiring practices. And that, is something you can’t legislate, and neither the chamber, nor the establishment, want to talk about.

  4. saltycracker says:

    It is the employers role to determine what skills/requirements they are looking for and not an open forum debate, regardless if it is not in their best interest. If they happen to be jerks, the passed over applicant is better served.

    • But when there are plenty of folks with skills and education, but yet, they aren’t hired – tells me that the employer needs to either change their hiring / recruiting practices, or stop whining to the gov’t to fix it.

      • saltycracker says:

        We don’t get to define employer terms but, as taxpayers, they get to whine about specifics not offered in public education/vo-tech.

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