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Inward Investment Guides

Communications Connections: Wired or Wireless

Efficiency, flexibility, and cost savings are driving growth in new ICT products and strategies. And America's most "wired" cities are reaping the benefits.

William Atkinson (Apr/May 08)
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America's Most Wired Cities
Each year, Forbes publishes a list of the U.S.'s most "wired" cities. While these cities are of interest to "techies" as great places to live, they are especially of interest to ICT-reliant businesses seeking new places to set up offices and other facilities.

Number one on the list for 2008, for the second year in a row, is Atlanta, Georgia. According to David B. Hartnett, vice president of technology industry expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta's top 25 technology employers generate over $622 billion a year in revenue.

The main reason the city is so "wired," according to Hartnett, relates to the 1996 Summer Olympics. "When they wired the city for the Olympics, they laid a lot of fiber," he says. "As a result, a lot of companies began to relocate here." Then other companies were attracted by the existing infrastructure, and more young techies moved into Atlanta to work and live. This, in turn, provided an additional incentive for companies to move to Atlanta - it had a "wire-wise" and "wireless-wise" young work force ready to be hired. In fact, 2000 Census figures show that in the years between 1995 and 2000, Atlanta led the nation in the immigration of college-educated 24- to 35-year-olds with a strong background in technology.

Tied for fifth place on the Forbes list is Orlando, Florida, which until recently has been a well-kept secret, according to John Fremstad, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission's vice president for technology industry development: "People usually don't put `Orlando' and `technology' in the same sentence, because of our strong tourism-hospitality reputation." However, he says, the area supports a $15 billion technology industry.

"Access to the region's strong labor pool of experienced IT talent has been a critical contributor to our rapid growth over the last several years," says Thaddeus Seymour Jr., vice president of product management and marketing for CuraScript, a specialty pharmacy company in Lake Mary, Florida, an Orlando suburb. "Orlando's commitment to future investment in technology infrastructure, IT talent development, and information systems innovation gives us confidence in the region's ability to support our growth in the future."

Number seven this year, jumping up from 10th place in 2007, is Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Jeff Edge, senior vice president of economic development for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the financial services industry is particularly large in Charlotte. In fact, two of the largest banks in the country are based there. "All of the information and communications technology infrastructure that is required for this industry is here, and this gives us a leg up."
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