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Embracing technology in Gwinnett

While Georgia and Gwinnett were hit hard by the technology downturn from a few years ago, the future is very promising for Gwinnett's high-tech industry.

So promising, in fact, that many believe Gwinnett and the metro Atlanta region will strengthen its reputation as one of the leading technology job centers for the entire country during the next decade.

Both our county and region already lead the state and many parts of the nation in the fundamental assets needed to attract domestic and international high-tech companies: low costs of doing business, a favorable regulatory environment, a modern transportation and telecommunications infrastructure and a well-educated work force.

Perhaps even more important than these strengths is the existing cluster of technology companies and their employees already here. This cluster spawns even more high-tech startups and

entrepreneurs.

And the technology cluster in Gwinnett alone is very strong. Consider the following. Gwinnett is the home of the renowned Technology Park/Atlanta, the fourth largest technology park in Georgia with a campus of more than 500 acres.

We have more than 1,300 high-tech companies, including more than 230 bioscience-related companies. Seven of the region's top 25 high-tech employers operate facilities here.

What do these statistics mean for our county and our local economy?

For starters, a Cyberstates 2005 Report released by the AeA (American Electronics Association) shows that high-tech workers in Georgia and Gwinnett are paid extremely well.

The average high-tech wage in the state was $65,600 in 2003, or 78 percent higher than the state's average private sector wage. This means more expendable income and buying power for our residents translating into brisk business. High-tech exports represent 16 percent of Georgia's exports, bringing in more money for state and county governments.

To keep this momentum building and establish Gwinnett as the best place for technology companies to do business in the Southeast, it's critical to nurture and grow the network and relationships of our existing high-tech companies that are already here.

In Gwinnett we are achieving this in two ways.

First, we created the Gwinnett Technology Forum to provide representatives of local technology companies a unique opportunity to interact, develop strategic alliances and stay abreast of the technology issues, ideas and industry leaders impacting their business and

customers.

This program has created a real sense of community within Gwinnett's technology cluster.

Second, we are partnering with regional and statewide technology groups to assist with their goals and success that will, in turn, create a better environment for technology clusters throughout the region and the state.

The most visible example of this collaboration will be on Oct. 19 as Gwinnett hosts, for the first time ever, the Technology Association of Georgia's (TAG) Georgia Technology Summit: "Technology as a Competitive weapon." The Summit is the brainchild of the Technology Association of

Georgia (TAG) is in association with its Business and Technology Alliance (B&TA), the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. TAG is dedicated to the promotion and economic advancement of the state's technology industry and provides leadership in driving initiatives in the areas of policy, capital, education and

giving.

The fact that TAG chose Gwinnett to host its premier event speaks volumes about our growing reputation in Georgia.

The Gwinnett Chamber also played an active role in partnering with TAG to create the Excalibur Award to recognize Georgia companies that set themselves apart through the innovative use of technology. It is the first-ever award to nontech companies by tech companies. I would encourage all Gwinnett companies to learn more about it and apply. For more information, visit www.tagonline.org.

Gwinnett and our region are positioned favorably to benefit from the economic turnaround in the technology industry. This means high-quality jobs for our citizens and high-quality employers for our community.

And that's a win-win scenario for everyone.

Jim Maran is the president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.