The Georgia Innovates Task Force met for the first time Monday. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan brought the group together with a clearly defined mission.
“The tech capitol of the East Coast is a notion that is achievable, but I don’t want it to just be a marketing slogan. I want it to be something that we earn,” he said.
The task force is made up of CEOs, academics, entrepreneurs and retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. He co-chairs the group along with former Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson.
One goal is to attract more investment capital to the state to fund tech startups. Another, says Isakson, is finding a way to keep young people with degrees in the industry here in Georgia.
“‘Cause if you give the ideas of the future a chance to find a home and you build them a nest to incubate in, by golly, they’ll get to something, and they’ll eventually fly out and leave the nest,” Isakson said. “If they can build that harmony and that strength and that family together in the same nest, with goals and the types of things that we want to do here with this, then there’s no limit to what you can do.”
The group heard four presentations Monday. One was from Steve Justice with Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, who noted that Georgia universities combine to conduct $2.3 billion worth of research per year, highlighting the need to connect academics and industry.
He also said the task force needed to be able to help companies from start to finish.
“You have to make it easy for people to find resources,” Justice said. “When you’re running a company – especially a small to mid-sized company – you’re head-down running your company. And then when you need something, you need it now. You don’t have two to three weeks to do the research.”
The task force also promised to focus on areas outside of metro Atlanta as well. That was met with praise from Stacey Key with the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
“I think there is a lot of innovation that’s bottled up in our rural communities that doesn’t have a pathway forward,” Key said. “Focusing on the rural piece of it and providing the same resources that we’re talking about here will allow that innovation to come forward.”
The task force will divide into subcommittees that will bring recommendations to the group at its next meeting in early April.
A total of four meetings are set to take place between now and the summer at which time final recommendations will be delivered to Duncan.