Editor’s note: This sponsored post is provided by Pendleton Consulting, which supports Global Atlanta’s Israel and Economic Development coverage.
That Israeli companies are the cream of the crop in the tech world is no longer news. Still, not every city or county has the foresight to reach across an ocean and drum up ties with this hotbed of innovation.
The City of Peachtree Corners is different. Incorporated in 2012 on the site of one of Atlanta’s earliest tech hubs, the municipality has innovation baked into its DNA, displaying a deep understanding that technology can drive quality of life for its citizens.
City leaders also know that calling attention to their own efforts to drive solutions for connected cities of the future could generate narrative that could distinguish Peachtree Corners in a crowded world.
That spirit led to the launch of Curiosity Lab, the state’s only living lab where autonomous-vehicle and connected-mobility solutions can be tested on active city streets after “graduating” from controlled environments, with real-time monitoring and state-of-the-art data capture capabilities.
Given that focus, it seemed obvious that autonomous and connected transportation (smart mobility), data-driven management of city operations (smart city) and protection of access and digital assets (cybersecurity) would come together in Peachtree Corners.
Israel seemed to us at Pendleton Consulting, which has spearheaded this effort on behalf of the city, a natural place to construct mutually beneficial partnerships. Connecting with Israel started at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona, then took Peachtree Corners on a delegation to Israel in 2019, where we engaged with Israel’s Ecomotion organization and conference to ignite a new collaboration.
The city’s first engagement was with ZenCity, a solution that monitors resident feedback in real-time and over time to understand their sentiment on specific city initiatives, events, policies, communications campaigns and more. Next in line were The Israel Smart Mobility Living Lab and Cyber 2.0, which stepped up as Ecosystem Partners of Curiosity Lab. Cybersecurity company Cynamics followed, eventually opening an office in Peachtree Corners to break into the U.S. market. Additional collaborations are in the pipeline. Peachtree Corners was recognized as a partner for the EcoMotion conference in late May, held virtually amid the pandemic.
“Our collaboration with Israeli based companies continues to make Peachtree Corners one of the world’s leading smart cities. The work Pendleton Consulting Group does to help build strong relationships in Israel, is helping Peachtree Corners establish itself as a innovative and easy to work with government on the international stage,” said Brandon Branham, assistant city manager.
Lessons for Other Georgia Communities
Peachtree Corners’ approach to Israel and other international markets holds insightful lessons for the broader economic development community in Georgia.
Israeli companies are obviously interested in the American market, and American firms make ready customers, but there is often a geographic disconnect when it comes to the South. Many Israeli firms’ on better known (to them) markets such as New York, Boston and Silicon Valley.
Georgia may not have the edge in venture capital, but the state and the Atlanta area have a key competitive advantage that may be its most under-appreciated asset: a collaborative and friendly attitude towards economic development prospects.
In setting up Israeli partnerships, Peachtree Corners used Curiosity Lab to build a structure around this sometimes intangible goodwill, creating an integrated coalition of partners such as Southern Co., Sprint (offering 5G connectivity), universities such as Georgia Tech, along with technology and industry organizations. The value proposition for the investor or partner goes far beyond the city’s narrow interests.
This experience shows that international economic development isn’t not only the domain of larger communities. In fact, smaller jurisdictions may boast some advantages, as they can focus on high-quality jobs rather than striving to maximize the job figures and square footage of each foreign investment, as is so often the case in federal and state-led projects. For a smaller community, the halo effect from a few strategic partnerships can offer lasting effects.
Openness to external innovation while supporting local innovators has proven to be a winning formula for societal advancement. In a time of uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, we hope that this pipeline will remain open, especially in the so-called “sensitive” areas where protectionism seems to be on the rise.
Israel, a staunch ally of the U.S., will likely be less affected than some countries, and sectors like tech, cyber, defense, fintech and medical, especially pharmaceuticals, are areas where Israeli firms thrive.
Peachtree Corners provides an example of how Pendleton Consulting Group can help governments and companies in Georgia navigate the complexities of building fruitful relationships in Israel and beyond.
Guy Tessler joined Pendleton after over 12 years with Conexx: America Israel Business Connector. He specializes in international Business and Economic Development, and has deep ties with the technology and innovation communities in the Southeast, Israel and beyond.