Georgia Forward

For my column this month, I wanted to talk about the Georgia Forward conference that was held at Callaway Gardens in mid-August. From their website, “Georgia Forward is an independent, non-partisan organization working to improve the state of Georgia by engaging business, political, academic and civil leaders to collaboratively shape a statewide policy agenda.” They invited me to speak on the state of innovation in Georgia, and I was pleased to participate. My slides are available online here, and there is supposed to be video someday.

There’s a good overview in the AJC here. But there were a lot of great speakers at the conference, and I wanted to share some of their thoughts with you. I started going through my notes, and realized that I had posted most of the “good stuff” on Twitter! So I decided that this month’s column would be a list of my tweets during the two days I was at Callaway (sectioned off by headings so you get an idea of different sessions, rather than one undifferentiated stream).

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you get cheated this month. If you don’t, this may be a quick lesson in the value of social media. It’s a lot more than “What I had for lunch today”!

Getting Started

At the Georgia Forward conference

Bill Steiner lobbed me a softball question about hackerspaces. Love them, want to see more in Georgia! Thanks, Bill!

Mathew Hauer, University of Georgia Vinson Institute

Title of UGA demographics talk at #gafwd : “Georgia is the New California”!

Mathew Hauer: Over 1 million Georgians speak a foreign language at home

Mathew Hauer: Georgia has 10 of the 50 fastest growing counties in the USA

Mathew Hauer: Gwinnett County is #1 in USA for growth of Asian in-migration.

Mathew Hauer: Hispanics currently 9% of Georgia population. Will double in 10 years at current rates.

Mathew Hauer: Already more Hispanics being born in Georgia than moving here. Will accelerate. More than immigration issue.

Mathew Hauer: Almost all population growth in Georgia will be < age 25 or > age 65. They mostly don’t pay taxes. Ouch. #demographics

Regional Panel

  • Tom Ratcliffe, former mayor of Hinesville
  • Terry Lawler, Regional Business Coalition of Metro Atlanta
  • Dan Bollinger, Southwest Georgia Regional Council
  • Teresa Tomlinson, mayor of Columbus
  • Deke Copenhaver, mayor of Augusta
  • Bill Steiner, Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

Tom Ratcliffe: the Port of Savannah is “Georgia’s second Hartsfield”

Terry Lawler: the unofficial motto of Atlanta is “Sorry I’m late” #traffic

Tom Ratcliffe: Skilled workforce is aging. Where will we get welders when the current ones retire?

Tim Ratcliffe: Retired Army officer who taught math at West Point wanted to teach high school in Georgia. Not allowed. #educrats

Dan Bollinger: There are great teachers out there in every walk of life. Let them teach!

Ross Mason, Chairman, Georgia Department of Community Health, and Managing Director, HINRI Labs

Ross Mason: Fort Gordon just invested $460M in military communications hub.

Ross Mason: Silicon Valley is driven by Moore’s Law. US healthcare is driven by Moron’s Law.

Ross Mason: What would Georgia be like today if Robert Woodruff had moved to Florida to avoid income tax? Scary.

Ross Mason: Turn Fort McPherson into healthcare innovation park where startups and system integrators can coexist.

Ross Mason: Lack of alt assets allocation in Georgia pensions has cost us $12 billion since 2006

Ross Mason: There are more Chinese/Indians with 130+ IQs than the US has citizens. (Just reporting, not fact-checking)

Ross Mason: Texas passed tort reform. Brought 15,000 doctors to state in 18 months. Average 11 employees each.

Economic Development Breakout Session

  • Mike Cassidy, Georgia Research Alliance
  • Mike Gerber, Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education
  • Cliff Pyron, Georgia Ports Authority
  • Jannine Miller, transportation policy advisor, Office of the Governor
  • Tino Mantella, Technology Association of Georgia
  • Maria Saporta, Atlanta Business Chronicle
  • Ross King, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia
  • Ricardo Azziz, president, Georgia Health Sciences University

Mike Gerber: Single best thing Georgia can do for economic development is improve K-12 performance

Mike Gerber: Oz Nelson said UPS wouldn’t have considered Georgia when moving HQ from Connecticut without @Georgia_Tech, Emory, UGA.

Mike Gerber: Universities are permanent economic development assets. North Carolina can’t offer Emory tax incentives to relocate!

Cliff Pyron: Savannah container port has grown 11.5%/year for last ten years. Fastest growth in USA, #4 total volume

Cliff Pyron: 40% of US population is in Southeast. Ga/Fla exceeds NY/NJ. (Me: reporting, not fact-checking)

Cliff Pyron: Savannah is the shallowest deepwater port in the world. Panama Canal expansion makes it mandatory to deepen.

Jannine Miller: Georgia has extraordinary transportation infrastructure, but we stopped investing around 1990.

Jannine Miller: Georgia is now second-to-last in transportation investment per capita. Other states catching up fast. (Pass TSPLOST!)

Jannine Miller: 70% of truck traffic in/out of Georgia starts/stops in the state. “Not Wyoming where they’re just passing through”

Tino Mantella: Georgia has 10% unemployment, but also has 5000 open technology jobs where employers cannot find right skill set.

Jannine Miller: There’s traffic everywhere in USA, not just Atlanta. What Atlanta needs is predictable and reliable commutes.

Maria Saporta (condensed): Why does Georgia have such a fragmented econ dev strategy? Too many meetings, commissions, reports.

Ross King: more discussion of city-county (and multiple-county!) consolidation in Georgia over last 12 months than in last 25 years.

Ricardo Azziz: Don’t need more med schools; need bigger med schools with higher quality education.

Kati Haycock, President, the Education Trust

Kati Haycock: Single most determinative predictor of future income is high school mathematics performance

Kati Haycock: No matter how you slice the data, USA is not keeping pace with international competitiors in K-12

Kati Haycock: It’s not just poor kids. Even USA’s top 5% ranks 23rd out of 29th compared to top 5% elsewhere.

Kati Haycock: One of only two developed countries where young people in 2010 have not achieved higher education than parents

Kati Haycock: U.S. African-American and Hispanic high school graduates score 4 years behind white students in reading and math

Kati Haycock: Remember, those scores are based on the kids who stay in high school to get a diploma #distressing

Kati Haycock: Household income diff leads to an 8X differential in rates of college degrees (77% top quartile vs 10% bottom quartile)

Kati Haycock: Success stories from Frankford Elem, Delaware; George Hall Elem, Mobile, AL. #gafwd Fired all teachers for lack of vision

Kati Haycock: Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High, NY: low incomes, but high scores, high grad rates

Kati Haycock: same exam given to low-income African-American students in Boston and Washington DC: 19% diff (two grade levels)

Kati Haycock: K-12, Georgia is a middle-of-the-pack state in a mid-pack country. Not great place to be in knowledge economy.

Kati Haycock: Common Core is not enough. Set sights on “Advanced” curriculum

Kati Haycock: Family issues and poverty matter, but not as much as teachers who are in it to win

Kati Haycock: Why do teachers teach to the test? Because they don,t have sufficient curricular support

Kati Haycock: Need to demand more from students. Convince them that taking challenging classes in HS makes a difference later

Kati Haycock: Get rid of deadwood. Student who gets two bad teachers in a row may never recover. No teacher tenure

Kati Haycock: It’s a lot easier to start a good school than to fix a bad one. Aggressively shut ’em down, transfer only good teachers

Kati Haycock: Good teachers don’t give up on any kids. (Me: see Roberta Pournelle’s success teaching reading to the “hopeless”)

Kati Haycock: 1/3 of teachers nationally are NOT coming from schools of education. Yay for experimentation! Teach for America, etc

Kati Haycock: No teacher should be allowed to perform poorly for more than two years. They do too much damage. Move them out.

Navneet Singh Narula, founder, nBrilliance

Navneet Singh Narula: 95% of life is figuring out what to do; only 5% is actually doing it.

Navneet Singh Narula: “The ROI on social media is that your business continues to exist in five years”

Chad Evans, Senior Vice President, Council on Competitiveness

Looks like Chad Evans (Council on Competitiveness) is using Prezi at podium. Good for him, breaking the tyranny of PowerPoint!

Of course, using thin grey typefaces on a black background is just foolish. Ah, well. We’ll get Chad to Startup Gauntlet soon 🙂

Chad Evans: US, EU, and China split half of global GDP more or less equally. Rest of world has other half

Chad Evans: US remains decades ahead of rest of world on labor productivity

Chad Evans: By 2020, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and debt service will consume 92% of Federal budget. How to best spend 8%?

Cool! Chad wasn’t at conference yesterday, but is referring to tweets I (and others) posted! Twitter is more than “I ate lunch”

Chad Evans: Real life opportunities are interdisciplinary, crossing science and business “silos”

Chad Evans: Globalization is driven by global challenges, not just growth. Energy, water, etc.

Chad Evans: 40% of jobs lost in Great Recession were high-wage; only 14% of new jobs in recovery are high-wage

Chad Evans: His college interns have majors that didn’t exist ten years ago.

Chad Evans: “Early 60s is the new 30s” We’re going to work a lot later in life than our parents

Chad Evans: 25% of US workforce has been in current job less than a year. 50% < 5 years.

Chad Evans: US has largest R&D investment in world, but China on track to outpace us.

Chad Evans: Council on Competitiveness hosting national dialog at Georgia Tech next month

Chad Evans: Arizona State University building joint incubator with Brazil

Chad Evans: “Industrial policy” should not be a dirty word in Washington

Chad Evans: Multinational looking to locate plant in USA has to talk to 80 people in Washington. Compare to 2 in Brazil, 1 in China.

Chad Evans: His positive impression/narrative of Georgia’s competitiveness is not supported by the data.

Breakout Session: Solving Georgia’s Long-Term Water Supply Problem

  • Patricia Barmeyer, King & Spalding
  • Joe Cook, Coosa River Basin Initiative
  • Mark Masters, Albany State University
  • Katie Kirkpatrick, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
  • Don Cope, Dalton Utilities
  • Harry West, Center for Quality Growth & Regional Development, Georgia Tech
  • Jim Stokes, Georgia Conservancy
  • David Bennett, Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

Learning about Georgia’s water-use future at #gafwd

Based on 11th Circuit decision, Georgia will be filing motion to dismiss SECOND “water war” suit with Alabama within four weeks

Patricia Barmeyer: Water war cases are a failure of judicial system. Should have been thrown out in 1990.

Patricia Barmeyer: Only court with appropriate jurisdiction is SCOTUS. Alabama and Florida haven’t filed suit there since they’d lose

Joe Cook: Water wars aren’t just between Georgia, Alabama, Florida. Also pits Atlanta against Rome, Cartersville, south Georgia

Mark Masters: 70% of Albany (Ga.) economy is agriculture-based. Water is not optional.

Katie Kirkpatrick: Atlanta has made huge efficiencies in water efficiency. Added 1 million people, but CUT water consumption by 14%

Joe Cook: Atlanta has gone with water conservation carrots, but no sticks.

Joe Cook: Atlanta asking for 100M gallons/day from Etowah basin. Atlanta should ensure more water conservation first.

Katie Kirkpatrick: We want 250M gal/day from Tennessee River, and desalinized water from coast, but interbasin xfer is impractical

Don Cope: Building a reservoir today is a 15-year project.

Don Cope: Power generation plants are huge user of water. Evaporative coolers required to meet air quality standards

Harry West: We’ve struggled to get water conservation laws past real estate interests in Georgia legislature for decades

Don Cope: TVA claims that Tennessee River could spare 1 billion gallons/day with no impact. Over 500M gal/day flows from Ga INTO Tenn

Don Cope: Local rivalries aside, if you hurt Atlanta, you hurt the economy of the entire Southeast United States

Patricia Barmeyer: Northwest Georgia and southern Tennessee are natural geographical unit; line on the map is artificial

Patricia Barmeyer: Atlanta is forbidden by law from even exploring engineering requirements for water from Tennessee

Me: Send the Georgia National Guard to the 35th parallel, and build a pipeline! 🙂

Dan Cope: Water isn’t necessarily fungible. Cold water more valuable to power plants than warm water (hi delta-T). Allocate smarter.

Katie Kirkpatrick: Desalinization could help coastal regions, but VERY expensive to lift 2M gal/day 1000 feet to Atlanta

Patricia Barmeyer: At least allow Georgia to explore interbasin transfers. Currently prohibited by law. Bitter intra-state rivalries.

Timely coincidence! #gafwd RT @DropInTheBucket “Civilization has been a permanent dialogue between human beings and water.” – Paolo Lugari

Based on this panel, I’m willing to hand the keys of Georgia’s water issues to Don Cope of Dalton, and let him fix it. #impressive

Harry West: Georgia has not adequately considered worst-case scenarios (future growth plus inevitable drought years).

Jim Stokes: The 15-year timeline for building new reservoirs is dominated by Federal permit process (EPA, Corps of Engineers)

Harry West: Peachtree Street is a subcontinental divide. Every time City of Atlanta water crosses Ptree, it’s an interbasin transfer!

David Bennett: Atlanta already has highest water rates and lowest per-capita use in the country. Not much room for improvement.

Jim Stokes: Raising Lake Lanier by one foot would equal a new reservoir, but would require same 15-year Federal permitting process

Other Breakout Sessions (tweeted by others)

RT @joeventures: Ga Council of Arts was moved to Ga Dept of Econ Dev, in recognition of the role played by arts in job creation

RT @jim_langford: Jessyca Holland: metro Atlanta has lowest percentage of Gen Y population of any major city in US. Losing creative tale …

RT @GeorgiaForward: Paul Radford @ #gafwd : Recession = great reset for ga cities.

David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General, CEO of Comeback America

RT @RyanTaylorAIA: David Walker says US founding fathers did not intend current government: politicians were intended to be biz persons

RT @iruncampaigns: “Government has grown too big, promised too much and waited too long to address its fiscal issues.” – David Walker


Hope you enjoyed the tweetstream. The mood at the conference was… hard to say. “Optimistic, but worried”? Over dinner and in hallway conversations, there seemed to be a consensus that Georgia had lost momentum over the last decade. One person in particular had met with a senior economic development civil servant from North Carolina. He asked “What do you in North Carolina think of Georgia?” The answer: “We don’t. We think about Texas, and Asia, and Brazil.”


But it wasn’t doom and gloom. I think there was a consensus that our destiny was largely in our own hands. Deepening the port of Savannah will help. Passing TSPLOST will help fix the infrastructure that has been ignored for too long. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals tossing out Judge Magnuson’s looming restrictions on Lake Lanier will help until we get new reservoirs built. Even the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal may help, if it gets taxpayers and business leaders focused on how terribly broken our K-12 system is.

It’s a difficult time in Georgia, but I think it’s a difficult time all across the United States. I certainly wouldn’t trade places with California, whose deficit is bigger than our budget!