promise of the "information age" economy is driving R&D and growth
strategies across the South. One of the first steps is to make sure all
areas and residents of the South have strong IT access. The Information
Technology for Economic Development Program is a partnership involving
the Southern Technology Council and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA),
which represents eight states in the Delta region. The hope is to
leverage information technology to improve entrepreneurship, health,
The first fruit is a comprehensive plan presented
in May called "iDelta: Information Technology in the Delta," which is
intended to build information technology access and utilization in the
region. "This plan provides a map for expanding information technology
in the region," says Pete Johnson of Mississippi, federal co-chair of
the Delta Regional Authority. "Information technology is as critical to
the advancement of the region as highways," he says.
specific recommendation is creation of an iDelta Center that will serve
as an organizing entity for regional IT initiatives. "Only a new
organization with regional responsibility for increasing IT access and
usage can connect the residents of the region with the opportunities of
the global economy," according to Scott Doron, director of the Southern
Technology Council and one of the authors of the DRA plan.
in the South are exploring numerous ways to boost
information-technology development. One example is Innovista, a
500-acre urban innovation district in Columbia, S.C. Among other
things, it's helping the community combine its strengths in the
insurance industry with its desire to boost IT, by welcoming such
companies as Duck Creek Technologies, an insurance software and
services company that plans to locate in Innovista. The South Carolina
location will include a new research, product development, and service
facility and create at least 200 high-paying jobs.
sectors, places where IT already thrives can expect ongoing growth.
Atlanta is one such place. "IT talent is thriving in Atlanta, and we
intend to hire and train a significant number of employees over the
next year," says Chris Thompson, team lead of the new Atlanta office of
RTTS, a professional services organization specializing in software
And San Antonio is fast becoming a hub for
data centers: Microsoft has plans for a 475,000-square-foot center
there; Lowe's last year announced its intention to build a data center
in San Antonio; the National Security Agency's Texas Cryptology Center
has plans for a large data center there; and the CHRISTUS Health
hospital chain does as well.
Advanced Manufacturing Technology
remains vibrant in the Southern states, and their star has really been
rising when it comes to automotive manufacturing, thanks in large part
to foreign investments. Seven Southern states have made automotive
manufacturing a special economic development target, and four have
targeted manufacturing in general with special incentives and programs.
However, it's not an easy time for American manufacturers, with
overseas competition continually gaining strength. That's why U.S.
firms need to stay ahead of the game in their strengths of advanced
manufacturing technology and productivity.
With this in mind,
the Southern Technology Council launched the Southern Manufacturing
Technology Initiative, hoping to enhance the efficiency and
productivity of information technology in manufacturing firms. Small
and medium-sized manufacturers employ 60 percent of manufacturing
employees and represent 40 percent of manufacturing output, and their
long-term success depends upon their ability to react quickly to the
continuously changing business climate.
A recent survey of
Southern manufacturing companies found that virtually all view
information technology as very important or somewhat important to their
success. Business leaders involved in the push to boost manufacturing
technology have been focusing their efforts on five types of IT
critical to manufacturing: enterprise resource planning, the Internet,
computer-aided design and manufacturing, radio-frequency
identification, and manufacturing execution systems.