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 Fall 2015


Winter 2012

Ten Southern markets that are fostering technology like few others

You don’t have to dig deep to find technologically advanced markets in the South. They are everywhere. Here are ten that caught our eye this year.

Austin, Texas

You can’t use the word technology in the South and not include Austin in the sentence. This place rocks and could be the South’s tech capital with Northern Virginia being the only other place we can think of that might beat Austin. 

Since 2004, Austin has led the nation among the 50 largest metro areas in job creation. That’s hard to believe considering neighboring Houston’s performance of late, but that is what we found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site. One of the South’s largest tech-oriented projects was announced in Austin in the spring quarter. Apple is expanding in Austin, adding 3,600 jobs. Wow!

Chattanooga, Tenn.

While Austin and Northern Virginia may lead all major markets in tech advances and recruitment, Chattanooga may be doing the same in the mid-market category in the South. Home to Volkswagen’s only U.S. assembly plant, Chattanooga transformed itself long before VW transformed the Tennessee market’s economy. The city’s efforts at making it tech-friendly are nothing less than remarkable. Chattanooga recently positioned itself as the most advanced in the nation for wired and wireless broadband technology by completing a 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home network, offering a level of broadband not seen in but a few markets.

Danville, Va.

Austin may be the South’s best tech town and Chattanooga may be the South’s best mid-market tech town. Well, Danville may be the South’s best small market tech town. Like most markets in South Virginia, Danville is historically a manufacturing economy, but is also home to the next-generation global supercomputer, the Cray XMT. The location is the first for such a device outside of a federal lab or a university. The supercomputer can address complex issues requiring access to large amounts of data, like in DNA sequencing and molecular science.

Lafayette, La.

This year, Lafayette was recognized as having the nation's largest increase in median annual household income between 2005 and 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, Lafayette had the 11th-highest annual growth in per capita income in the nation at 4.9 percent annually. Put those accolades on top of innovative community initiatives like Lafayette’s business accelerator and incubator, Opportunity Machine; the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) -- a unique visualization and technology facility open to both industry and academia -- and LUS Fiber’s newly-launched, dedicated and low-cost gigabit connections and their existing 100 Mbps connections, and you have a community that has seen a surge in technology-intensive companies in the past decade. 

Aiken, S.C.

Seldom do you find just the right balance between applied technology in manufacturing and technology initiatives designed to create jobs for the future.  Aiken County has found that balance. With some of the most advanced manufacturing plants in the nation, such as Kimberly-Clark, MTU advanced engines, and the new $1 billion Bridgestone plant, Aiken County also has one of the most forward-looking technology initiatives in the South.

The 60,000-square-foot Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken, S.C., opened in 2005. Home to the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), Aiken leveraged technologies ranging from alternative fuels to small modular nuclear reactors.  The county’s Savannah River Research Campus now houses one of the most advanced hydrogen and fuel cell facilities in the United States. Over 80 scientists and researchers are working in the $15 million, 60,000-square-foot Center for Hydrogen Research (CHR) facility on technologies ranging from hydrogen storage to bio-hydrogen.

Aiken and its surrounding communities recently completed a first-of-its-kind assessment of the needs of the nuclear industry within the region and determined that 10,000 jobs would be available in the sector over the next 10 years. Aiken took action and its colleges and universities are responding to the demand. As sponsor of the technology initiatives the Economic Development Partnership -- through its Applied Research Center (ARC) and the CHR -- has developed a solid program to bring technology to the private sector.  

Northwest Florida

Northwest Florida has emerged as one of the fastest growing technology centers in the South. The region provides a unique mixture of research universities, military research facilities, and technology companies attracted to the region because of its quality of life attributes.

Okaloosa County, home to Eglin Air Force base, was recently ranked among the nation’s top 20 “geekiest cities” by Forbes magazine, reflecting the heavy concentration of defense contractors supporting the Air Force research and development activities there. The Pensacola MSA is home to the University of West Florida and a diverse group of technology businesses. Tallahassee, home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University, offers research centers of excellence across a wide range of disciplines, as well as the National High Magnetic Laboratory, which has served as a magnet for many technology spin-offs.

Savannah, Ga.

An emerging sector in Savannah, knowledge-based businesses -- like internet/web design, digital media, entertainment production, product design, business consulting and software development -- pay smart wages and attract smart people. With companies like Stage Front Presentation Systems, that builds audio, video and lighting systems for clients across the U.S., Savannah is answering the call. 

Armed with the Savannah College of Art and Design and Georgia Southern University, The Creative Coast was created as Savannah's answer to this shifting business horizon. And today, the Savannah Economic Development Authority, a long-time supporter of The Creative Coast, is developing a for-profit venture fund to help scalable businesses stay and grow in Savannah.

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Oak Ridge is where the Tennessee Valley Authority energized the landscape and the culture; where people committed to protecting their natural resources as a national park; where the Manhattan Project pushed the boundaries of human potential and ended a world war. Today, Oak Ridge still has the power to amaze.

Premier research and manufacturing institutions (among them Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, and East Tennessee Technology Park) are centers of discovery -- attracting talented minds to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges in science, security, manufacturing and energy.

Oak Ridge is where the fastest super computers in the world calculate at incredible speeds. It is where high-powered microscopes reveal the tiniest particle and where national security is continually strengthened. It is where the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility soon will make carbon fiber cost effective enough for mainstream use. 

For decades, Oak Ridge has served as a catalyst for economic growth in our nation, the state and the community. Oak Ridge continues to be a catalyst by fostering game-changing technology in ways never before imagined. 

Orlando, Fla.

You can find just about every innovative technical operation under the sky in Orlando. IT, biotech, digital media, clean tech, modeling, simulation and all types of advanced manufacturing are going on in this recovering central Florida market.

One of our favorite Orlando tech endeavors is the creation of the 68-acre “Creative Village.” Work is underway to establish a mix of living and work spaces designed to build on the success of Orlando’s digital media industry. The village, which is being built on the site of the old (now demolished) Amway Arena, is envisioned to be a place for high-tech companies to locate. It will have a strong focus on education as it is anchored by the University of Central Florida’s Center for Emerging Media.

Owensboro, Ky.

An 85-year-old former tobacco warehouse in downtown Owensboro, Ky. has been converted into high-tech lab space for the use of tobacco as cures for cancer and other diseases. It is all a part of Owensboro embracing a more diverse and holistic economic development strategy. The 37,000-square-foot facility boasts bio safety level-2 wet labs, with about $1 million in shared equipment. “Owensboro is strategically positioned to be a leader in plant-made pharmaceuticals and food science, and we needed a place where start-ups in the life science industry could grow and thrive,” said Madison Silvert, Executive Vice President of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation. Local business professionals and university researchers are available at the facility to ensure research leads to a commercialized product.

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