If full ballrooms are any indication, Georgia is continuing its rise as an international hub for logistics and technology.
The March 19 Georgia Logistics Summit saw peak attendance in its fifth year, bringing more than 2,000 people from across the state and around the world to the Georgia World Congress Center. For the first time, the summit featured an international session where practitioners gave insight into more than 10 markets.
Attendees learned, for example, that Korea is investing heavily in Songdo, its new international business district near the Incheon International Airport, that France makes airplanes in addition to cheese and wine and that Israel has an online registration system used by most logistics providers in the country.
They also found out that Georgia companies export more than $1 billion in goods to Brazil every year (despite the red tape) and that Germany‘s “mittelstand”, or small and medium-sized business segment, is the backbone of its economy.
The international panel was an experiment, but it was definitely successful based on feedback from attendees, said Page Siplon, director of Georgia’s Center of Innovation for Logistics, which organizes the summit.
“I was floored when I came back in that room and it was standing room only,” he said, and it wasn’t just preaching to the choir.
Knowing a seemingly obscure regulation about which wood to use on shipping pallets going to Australia versus Europe can be a competitive advantage for a shipping company, Mr. Siplon said.
“Those are all down-in-the-weeds deep dives that we need to get into,” he said, adding that the panel was just the start of a conversation on international competitiveness that will continue throughout the year.
Meandering among exhibit booths, it was easy to bump into local firms as well as subsidiaries of global companies like Ortec of the Netherlands or Zim of Israel, one of the world’s largest shipping lines.
If all that weren’t enough, on March 20 Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, speaking at a forum focused on exports, reiterated his ambitious goal of making Atlanta “the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere.” He noted that he has traveled to Washington more than 10 times to lobby for funds for the deepening of the Port of Savannah, noting that “great cities have great airports and seaports.”
Earlier that day, up Interstate 75 at the Cobb Galleria, the Georgia Technology Summit convened a record 1,300 attendees with a focus on enhancing global commerce through technology.
Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia, which hosts the conference, cited logistics as one of the areas where Georgia leads the nation’s technology pack, along with mobility, financial technology, information security and health information technology.
Tech companies have announced that they will invest $2.7 billion into Georgia over the next five years in headquarters, research, data and production facilities, potentially creating 8,000 jobs, Mr. Mantella said in his “State of the Industry” address.
“Looking at these statistics it’s clear that Georgia’s economy is in the fast lane and our tech sector is certainly leading the way in the driver’s seat,” he said.
While the event focused on payment technology and netted Visa Inc. CTO Matt Quinlan as a speaker, other tech gurus gave a broader view of the world’s innovation landscape.
In his morning keynote, Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of ethernet, said energy was an exciting cluster to watch in innovation, and that the Internet is equalizing education, causing universities to reform outdated models.
Ray Kurzweil, an acclaimed futurist, writer, inventor and thinker, closed the afternoon with a look at the history of innovation and how the time horizon between a technological breakthrough and its offshoots – think telegraph to Internet – has grown smaller over time.
Visit www.tagstateoftheindustry.com/2013 for more information about the current state of Georgia’s technology sector. The 18,500-member organization also announced its picks for the state’s top 10 and top 40 most innovative companies.
Visit Georgia’s Center of Innovation for Logistics here to learn more about the Georgia Logistics Summit and to sign up for monthly market snapshots.