New innovation center key to tech future

BY MAGGIE MCDANIEL
Posted

Home to over 600 technological companies, Alpharetta sits as the Technology City of the South and is continuing to improve its status.

Opening the new Alpharetta Technology Commission (ATC) innovation center, a facility that provides an area for startup technology and innovation, is just one example of Alpharetta pushing toward being a leader of technology in the state.

Mark Hubbard, chief executive officer of the ATC, manages the facility and called it “the center of gravity for innovation.”

“The place is meant to be and is a reflection of the folks that are here; there is no specific agenda with it. It is what they want it to be,” Hubbard said. “It can serve as something special to folks when they do not have their own 150,000-square-foot building they built for themselves.”

The Greater Alpharetta Tech Network holds weekly office hours at the new innovation center. GATN is a nonprofit technology association dedicated to helping the growth and prosperity of technology companies and professionals in the greater Alpharetta area.

Karen Cashion, president of GATN, said the purpose of these office hours is to let the local startups at the innovation center know that GATN is here to serve them and the greater Alpharetta tech community. GATN seeks input from the tech community on programming that interests them and to make them aware of the local tech events that GATN hosts.

The center includes lockable office suites for lease for start-up tech businesses, 24/7 member co-working access to the building, tech accelerator programs and large spaces for meetings and events.

“We believe that the innovation center will quickly evolve into a bona fide innovation hub,” Cashion said. “This is precisely the type of gathering and workspace needed for our local tech community.”

Businesses that already started leasing offices are Juice Analytics, Basecamp and EMRgence. Juice is a tech company that specializes in designing and building Web applications that connect people with data.

Ken Hilburn, chief operating officer for Juice Analytics, manages the Juice office at the innovation building. Hilburn views the facility as a networking opportunity for his company.

“It is great to be around folks that are in the same stage, to learn from and encourage each other,” Hilburn said. “Pretty much on a daily basis there is someone coming through that we haven’t met before and is involved in the tech field in the North Atlanta area.”

Plans for the center had been discussed between the ATC and the city’s economic development department for almost three years.

When the city’s finance department relocated to the new City Hall, the innovation center had the opportunity to take its place.

The city’s economic development department put up over $30,000 to repurpose and upgrade the center, and the ATC serves as a tenant for the center. The ATC is a nonprofit organization made up of Alpharetta’s big and small leading technology companies. The members are challenged with identifying key investment opportunities and policy decisions for Alpharetta’s technology companies and its growing technology industry.

Peter Tokar, economic development director for the city of Alpharetta, believes the innovation center is different from others, because it is not privately run with the goal of creating wealth, opportunity or innovation for the owners of the facility.

“This being a nonprofit and in partnership with the city of Alpharetta, gives a more holistic tone to the center,” Tokar said. “The center is there to help businesses grow, find funding and feed the Alpharetta tech ecosystem.”

Tokar said he believes the center will do amazing things for the Alpharetta community.

“The key to Alpharetta sustaining our position as the tech hub in the region is to evolve ourselves and be a city that is innovative to attract the talent we need to support our businesses,” Tokar said.

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