Forsyth County often sits atop counties across the state in quality of public education, health and wealth, but now residents can add another to the list: innovation.
The Technology Association of Georgia recently announced its 2015 State of the Industry: Technology in Georgia Report at a statewide technology summit at the Cobb Galleria. In the key findings were five counties that have an innovation economy topping the national average, and Forsyth County topped them all.
This index is an overall measure that reflects a county’s capacity for such activity, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. With the national average equaling 100, Forsyth (111.9), Gwinnett (106.5), Fulton (105.5), Oconee (104.3) and Cherokee (100.1) all also ranked above Georgia’s average of 92.3.
“We have a long history of, really since the inception of the community, of entrepreneurs and that spirit,” said James McCoy, president/CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce. “Some people use the word innovation, but the heart of that is people who are entrepreneurs.”
Numbers were reached by comparing performance in areas like human capital, economic dynamics and productivity. More than 300 executives were polled about how innovation is affecting the community.
The report contains myriad data on Georgia’s technology landscape, including a highlight that the tech sector has produced more than 25,000 net new jobs since 2010 and reached a payroll of $23 billion for 2014.
TAG aims to promote Georgia’s technology community to foster “an innovative and connected marketplace that stimulates and enhances a tech-based economy.”
McCoy said the Chamber is always looking to finds ways of staying ahead of the curve.
“We’ll have a new economic development professional who’s focused on tech companies. We’ve been facilitating start-up coffees for small groups of people, for them to get together in an informal setting,” he said.
Entrepreneurship is being backed at the lawmaker level, too.
A fund called Invest Georgia was created three years ago, but this is the first year money will be funneled into it, said state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth’s District 25.
“It’s for the state to help invest or match private investment in young companies,” he said. “Right now they’re getting started in Atlanta and then leaving for California or New York or Texas for more capital. We’re trying to keep them in Georgia.”
He said Forsyth County residents reflect an innovative community.
“Our good schools have attracted a lot of workers. People who have these jobs [in the tech field] are insistent they have super-duper schools for their kids. It’s a destination for high tech because they’re not going to work in an area where the schools are even average.”
He noted that while Forsyth has been successful so far, there needs to be an emphasis on growing that success.
“I’ve lived in Forsyth for 15 years but worked in Alpharetta in high tech for 25. A lot of people in the district do that but drive over the line to Windward Parkway, Old Milton,” Dudgeon said. “We want to try to grow some of that tech sector here.
The $200 million transportation bond that Forsyth residents passed in November includes the widening of a connector road parallel to Ga. 400 by completing Ronald Reagan Boulevard between Majors Road and McFarland Parkway in south Forsyth.
When finished, it will connect to North Point and Westside parkways in north Fulton.
“We want to make it appealing in south Forsyth for tech companies to expand,” Dudgeon said. “Let’s keep some of these jobs here.”