Technology businesses have greater economic impact on the state of Georgia than does Atlanta’s airport, the president of the Technology Association of Georgia told a group of Perimeter business and government officials on March 15.

“We’re no longer just peaches, pecans, pine trees, poultry and peanuts,” TAG President Tino Mantella told the 100-plus people attending a luncheon sponsored by the Perimeter Business Alliance, a business group in the Perimeter area, which includes portions of Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody.

Mantella said technology businesses account for about 17 percent of Georgia’s gross domestic product, with an economic impact on the state of about $113.1 billion a year. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, considered a major driver of the metro area’s economy, produces about $68 billion in economic impact, he said.

Mantella took part in a panel that included representatives of several high-tech companies with operations in the Perimeter area. Other panelists were: David Dabbiere, chief operating officer of AirWatch, a mobile device security and management software company; David A. Spotts, director of facilities and corporate services for AutoTrader.com; and Gerard White, chief executive officer of Clearwave Corp., a healthcare technology company.

Panelists said they found metro Atlanta and the Perimeter area to be attractive places for high-tech companies and their employees. “We think there’s no better place than Atlanta right now to build a technology company,” Dabbiere said.

High-tech companies, the panelists said, bring to Georgia employees who are young and well-paid. The average salary is about $81,000, twice the average for other kinds of jobs, Mantella said.

And some local high-tech companies are report explosive growth. AirWatch recently announced it was adding hundreds of jobs at its Sandy Springs headquarters. Dabbiere said AirWatch has been adding about 80 employees a month.

White said his company wants to attract the brightest employees from across the country.  “We are recognized for being a great city to live in,” White said. “And the other thing is when they get here, they rarely leave.”

One problem high-tech firms face in Georgia, Mantella said, is a lack of venture capital companies with roots in the state.  “There’s a real need for venture funding in this area,” he said. “There are only a handful of venture funding [companies].”

Georgia companies, he said, only collect about 1 percent of the venture capital invested in a typical year. California companies, he said, collect about 52 percent. “We’re not getting our fair share of the dollars,” he said.

Left to right, Gerard White, CEO of Clearwave Corp.; DAvid Spotts, director of facilities for AutoTrader.com; Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia; and David Dabbiere COO of AirWatch discuss high-tech businesses in the Perimeter area during the March 15 meeting of the Perimeter Business Alliance.