At the Perimeter Business Alliance’s March meeting, held at Cox Enterprises headquarters, (from left) Gerard White of Clearwave Corp., David A Spotts of, Tino Mantella of Technology Association of Georgia and David Dabbiere of AirWatch discuss the explosive growth in high-tech industries.

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

“We’re no longer just peaches, pecans, pine trees, poultry and peanuts,” TAG President and Chief Executive Tino Mantella told the 100-plus people attending a luncheon sponsored by the Perimeter Business Alliance.

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; and Gerard White, chief executive officer of Clearwave Corp., a health care 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 bring to Georgia employees who are young and well paid, the panelists said.

According to Mantella, the average salary is about $81,000, twice the average for other jobs.

Some local high-tech companies 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 best and 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, collect only about 1 percent of the venture capital invested in a typical year, compared with California, which collects about 52 percent.

“We’re not getting our fair share of the dollars,” he said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.