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March 9, 2014

State eyeing recruitment at annual tech, media fest

A group of Atlanta entrepreneurs, economic development officials and others are at the annual technology and entertainment festival South by Southwest Interactive to market the region as startup and mobile media hub.

The group — dubbed Southern Fried — wants to sell Atlanta and Georgia as a destination for those looking to establish themselves in the technology and entertainment industries.

The conference runs from March 7 through 16 and its three components include music, film and emerging interactive technology.

Aside from luring new businesses to the metro Atlanta area, one of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s goals during the festival in Austin, Texas is to help companies that are already operating in the region find ways to expand, said MAC Director of Technology Industry Development, Gregg Simon.

A 30 percent tax credit on film, television and video game production is an incentive that’s been instrumental in establishing Atlanta as a major player in several industries, Simon said. The tax credit has led to what he considers a tremendous uptick in the number of media productions and studios opening in the state.

“So attending shows like this is where we have opportunities to fill that pipeline,” he said, adding that many post-production jobs are beginning to move into the Atlanta-area as well.

“We are gaining the whole ecosystem here and we’re going to South by Southwest to make sure the industry knows about this,” he said.

Asante Bradford of the Georgia Department of Economic Development is also traveling to Austin and said the department is particularly focused on luring new video game, social media and mobile technology companies. This year’s festival will be the first time the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Department of Economic Development will be represented, Bradford and Simon said.  

“Other states have kind of gone and have been putting a flag up for the past couple of years, we haven’t really participated,” Bradford said. “We need to have a presence there, to tell our story.”

The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s representation at the festival is part of its five-year strategic job creation plan that was outlined in January 2013, Simon said. According to its annual report, the Chamber helped match more than 100 startups with investors and customers, and created about 7,800 jobs in 2013.

“There are a lot of tools that we bring to the table to help companies expand in Atlanta,” Simon said, noting that a network of colleges and universities, workforce training programs and state and local startup assistance agencies combine to make the city look attractive to entrepreneurs and investors.  

The state also offers the Angel Investor Tax Credit to Georgians who make qualified investments in specific types of startup businesses. Department of Revenue officials said earlier this year that 12 taxpayers were preapproved by the state to take advantage of a total of $261,105 in credits on their 2013 tax returns.

Scott Henderson, managing director of CauseShift — an Atlanta production company that planned the Southern Fried showcase — said the diversity of the group’s list of nearly 90 planned attendees is a testament to the metro Atlanta region and Georgia overall. The group’s participant list includes officials from The Weather Channel, Big Nerd Ranch, local universities and startups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more.  

“I’m proud at how the community’s rallied, but not surprised because we have such a depth of talent here,” he said, noting the amount of people and organizations from both the public and private sectors who quickly signed on to be part of the showcase.

“We believe that Atlanta can be defined by two words: fragmented awesomeness,” he said, “It’s about creating connected awesomeness.”

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