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November 8, 2018

Technology Leadership Council Talks Innovation Priorities and Gives Transportation Update

For most of its history, Atlanta has been a focal point for innovation in the region. By transforming industries, culture and technology, the metro Atlanta region has highlighted itself as a community that thinks outside of the status quo. With the spirit of innovation in mind, the recent Metro Atlanta Chamber Technology Leadership Council meeting focused on the innovation and entrepreneurship economy, with a focus on introducing the Chamber’s first Chief Innovation Officer Alex Gonzalez.

The meeting began with a welcome and introduction led by John Yates, partner with Morris Manning & Martin, LLP. Following introductions was an update from Grant Wainscott, the Chamber’s senior director of technology ecosystem expansion, on the changes forecasted for the Technology Leadership Council in 2019. Wainscott described a focus on more intimate events and dinners and deeper dives into key technology developments – all framed around regional impact.

Grant Wainscott introduced Alex Gonzalez to the council, explaining the importance of the new chief innovation officer role. Gonzalez has over 20 years of experience in the corporate world with companies such as Equifax, General Electric, the Highwire Group and the Disruptor Studio, tasked with the job of changing the dynamic within organizations.

Wainscott and Gonzalez engaged in a fireside chat, which focused on Gonzalez’s priorities for the first year of his new position.

“Atlanta is the best place to dream big and make those dreams come true,” Gonzalez said. “One of my priorities is to have purposeful storytelling around all aspects of innovation.”

Alex also discussed the importance of catalyzing connectivity between the creative community, startups, corporate centers and technology hubs in the region. The pair spoke about the exciting ways that Atlanta disrupts industries such as financial technologies, bioscience and entertainment, also mentioning the massive opportunity Atlanta has to disrupt the esports industry.

Wainscott and Gonzalez discussed important existing programs such as Engage – connecting startups to capital and corporations in a meaningful way – and Backed by ATL – creating cohorts of mid-market companies and connecting them to the larger ecosystem.

When asked why the Atlanta region is more innovative than other city hubs, Gonzalez explained, “Atlanta leans into conflict and things that are hard and fixes problems. We have a culture that embraces doing things in non-traditional ways, which I think is very exciting.”

Dave Williams, vice president of infrastructure and government affairs with the Chamber, shared updates regarding transportation and public policy. Williams began by talking about the More MARTA plan, which adds a half-cent additional sales tax in the City of Atlanta to fund major MARTA expansions, calling this a key step in the last decade for transit. The More MARTA plan will provide 22 additional miles of transit, extend the street car availability, add two new transit centers and an additional 14 miles of bus service – all culminating in a $200 million transit upgrade.

David Hartnett, chief economic development officer with the Chamber, gave a quarterly update regarding economic expansion in the region. The first highlight was Salesforce, which is expanding by 500 employees in its Buckhead location, bringing their new total to 1,000 employees in the region. Floor & Décor has recently doubled the size of its headquarters in Cobb, and Starbucks launched a new support center in Midtown. Additionally, Hartnett highlighted the news of BlackRock’s new innovation center, which will bring 1,000 new jobs.

The Technology Leadership Council will return in Q1 of 2019 in its new format. If you have any questions on how your organization can engage with the council, please reach out to Grant Wainscott for more information.

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