Why Entrepreneurs?

Why Entrepreneurs?
By: Dr. Eloisa Klementich, Senior Vice President, Economic Development, Invest AtlantaThinking

In the world of economic development, terms like innovation and entrepreneurship have been ever present. In our brochures, on our website, in our classrooms and at our conferences, the secret to an economy’s growth is touted as entrepreneurship. But why?
As an economic development professional, I would suggest that innovation, driven by visionary entrepreneurs, is what fundamentally changes ‘economic structures.’ For example, the 1860s brought the railroads, the 1870s the industrial revolution, the 1970s semiconductors and the 1980s the Internet, all of the innovations of the period fundamentally changed how we exchange goods and services which is at the heart of economies.
In simplified terms, moving goods by rail meant the ability to move goods further, allowing businesses to export and import more efficiently by lowering the cost and maximizing time. The invention of the semiconductor made home computers attainable– increasing exposure and reach for the average American– and this innovation enabled the explosion of the Internet powering commerce by spawning new industries, facilitating greater access to more goods and services giving rise to new revenue streams. In fact, the Internet has turned the local market into a world market for both consumers and the retailers. Now, diversification of the customer base and international export opportunities are available to many businesses that otherwise would have been confined by localized supply and demand.
The opportunity for Atlanta is to identify and champion the next shift in economic influencers for change. The city that is able to leverage its entrepreneurs, understand the potential of its innovations and create a conducive economic environment for entrepreneurial success will be the most competitive leader in the 21st century’s economy. Competitiveness is crucial as it will drive sustainable economic growth that supports job creation and business returns–both imperatives for a thriving economy. And that requires a commitment to being a strategic, first-to-market, risk-taking leader. For entrepreneurs, risk is an everyday occurrence; for a city, risk is risky.
Atlanta is poised to be this kind of leader. Entrepreneurship has been steadily emerging here for some time and is now spouting up all over the City. Creating hubs and innovation centers like Atlanta Tech Village, SwitchYards, Flatiron City and Ponce City Market, entrepreneurs are citadels of ideas, innovation and disruptions that take hold wherever they go. These disruptions—the intentional mark of a true entrepreneur– drive the creation of new enterprises and new means for personal wealth and economic prosperity.
The City of Atlanta recognizes and supports these innovators as well as the spirit of entrepreneurism that blazes a path for more to come. From establishing the state of Georgia’s first city license tax exemption for technology startups, allowing entrepreneurs to test their products/services on city facilities to making critical investments in citywide infrastructure projects, Atlanta is investing in its future innovation capacity.
Atlanta’s corporate community is also championing entrepreneurism. There are more corporate-sponsored innovation centers now than in any other time in the city’s history. From Panasonic and AT&T to Home Depot and The Coca Cola Company, , more are investing in not just the innovative technologies but in the purveyors of these leading edge developments by providing the environments conducive to creating the solutions that can positively impact the lives of so many . This distinguishes Atlanta from so many other locales because of the city’s concentration of corporate headquarters which is great for the entrepreneur and for the companies that call Atlanta home because there is uninterrupted access to talent and a potential consumer.
Investment in entrepreneurship and innovation is not a one time occurrence, rather, it is an ongoing and concerted effort by governments, educational institutions, corporations and nonprofits leagued by a common commitment to doing what is best to ensure the growth and sustainability of our economy for all of those—companies and residents—who call Atlanta home. In fact, I would argue that strategic investments with calculated risks and new policies and programs targeted to entrepreneurship will lead to greater long term financial benefits which will serve the city’s future residents well.

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