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Alpharetta makes pitch as technology capital


With 900 area tech companies it's time to get organized



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Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and GATN President Karen Cashion share a common goal: to foster sense of community and connection among the more than 900 technology companies in greater Alpharetta. (click for larger version)

GATN Board of Directors
  • Karen Cashion, Partner, Hipes & Belle Isle, LLC; President/Founder of GATN
  • Mitch Copman, CEO, SEMS Technologies
  • Sarah Tourville, CEO, Media Frenzy Global and GATN Secretary
  • Luciano Chetan, CEO, Aristocrat Tech and Cambridge Healthcare
  • David Cooper, Taylor & English, GATN Treasurer
  • Angela Haneklau, VP and GM, Peak 10
  • Carl Davis, Partner, Baker & Donelson
  • Douglas Macgill, COO, Manage Mobility
  • Susan O'Dwyer, Habif, Arogeti & Wynne Rita Patel, Dean of Computer Science, Gwinnett Tech
  • Ruben Boling, Director, Center for the Future of North Georgia, University of North GA, Mike Cottrell School of Business
  • Indra Dattagupta, CEO, Xiverti
  • Gregory Burch, VP of Mobile, Business Development and ISV Partnerships, Ingenico
  • Sean Kiewat, CIO, Priority Payment Systems
  • May 30, 2014
    ALPHARETTA, Ga. When Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle took office, one of his first goals was to make Alpharetta the Technology Capital of the Southeast. It may already be the case.

    With the establishment of the Greater Alpharetta Technology Network (GATN), the seeds have been sown to not only brand Alpharetta as a technology capital, but to build on the synergy of these companies to strengthen their own self-awareness and attract more tech businesses to the greater Alpharetta area.

    Karen Cashion is founder and president of GATN, a fully chartered 501(c) trade association.

    Cashion also happens to be a corporate and technology law partner at the Alpharetta law firm of Hipes & Belle Isle (the mayor's law firm), so she has a kindred spirit in getting GATN off to a flying start. She is also former assistant general counsel for EarthLink, Inc.

    She says there are 600 tech companies within Alpharetta's corporate limits and another 300 more in outlying areas of North Fulton and South Forsyth, yet hardly anyone knows that.

    "It's staggering that until now they had no local association to serve them and to foster a community of collaboration and connection," Cashion said. "GATN's mission is to promote and engage our local tech community through thought leadership, educational and networking events."

    Cashion launched GATN with a kickoff dinner May 8 featuring Atlanta Tech Village founder and serial tech entrepreneur David Cummings spoke about creating a community of innovation. More than 150 were in attendance.

    Belle Isle sees GATN as another tool in bringing the technology community together. He has already formed a Technology Commission to advise the city in growing the tech community within its borders. Gwinnett Tech is building a North Fulton campus in Alpharetta to furnish a trained workforce and the city is in negotiations with Avalon to bring a 4-star hotel/convention center that will host trade shows and showcase area tech companies.

    "The tech companies we have here already are all over the map in size and scope," Belle Isle said. "Thirty-five percent of the Technology Association of Georgia's membership is right here. But to lead in entrepreneurial start-ups, the technology community has to have a place to come together and connect to feel like they are a part of something. But we have to recognize that Alpharetta is the economic engine of North Fulton."

    "All of Atlanta has 300 technology companies. Austin, Texas, has 600 technology companies, and it is the state capital with a major airport and a university" Belle Isle said. "What we have is a fiber-optic community with a power grid supported by Georgia Power."

    Tech companies attract other tech companies and the talent to support them, Belle Isle said.

    "With a supporting cast such as GATN, Gwinnett Tech and perhaps a convention center, we will be getting the word out to the rest of the country," he said.

    Recent technology addition FiServ is bringing 2,500 jobs to Windward Parkway and a 30,000-square-foot expansion and structured parking. And in the last 18 months 4,300 high-paying tech jobs have come to North Fulton, the mayor said.

    "We can expect more acquisitions like that which add to the tax base and the local economy," he said.

    Once Alpharetta reaches critical mass, the GATN mission will be even more important, Cashion said.

    "We will still need to foster a sense of community," she said. "We want to create opportunities for people to come together, interact together. And that means looking at the greater Alpharetta area. Technology doesn't have borders."

    That means GATN needs partnerships with organizations such as Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and North Fulton Progress Partners.

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    Tags: Business News, Government & News & Crime

    1. report print email
      "Location, Location, Location" in a Virtual World
      June 03, 2014 | 09:46 AM

      Some people may wonder why an actual, physical community is so important when we have so many ways to connect and collaborate virtually. Intelliverse (www.intelliverse.com) has called Alpharetta, GA home since 2003 and in these 11 years we've seen the steady growth of the Alpharetta's tech community. I think the din of virtual connections has made in-person connections even more valuable. The benefit of making a connection with other tech folks at the local coffee shop or at a friend's birthday party should not be undervalued. This isn't to say that we should limit ourselves to just those near us but we should make sure that we are not only making connections virtually. I am excited about opportunity to have a formal group that will bring all of us together and create a solidarity that will benefit everyone.

      Frank E. Paterno
      Alpharetta, GA
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