A Comprehensive Assessment of Atlanta's Status as a High-Technology Cluster
Taylor, Mollie Marie
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This thesis addresses two questions to understand the current situation of technology in Atlanta: Is Atlanta an ideal location for a technology cluster to form? Does a true technology cluster exist in Atlanta? According to cluster literature, there are seven characteristics required for emerging clusters: a high-quality, powerful research university; a skilled labor pool; funding (R&D, venture capital, etc.); favorable policies; linkages; certain city characteristics; and luck. There also are several somewhat-vague characteristics that show success in a cluster. Among these are agglomeration, innovation (where funding and employment are two measures of innovation), and growth. In order to provide a comprehensive assessment of the answers to the two questions, a mixture of summary statistics, shallow case studies, previous analysis, and comparisons of Atlanta with other clusters are blended together to assess Atlanta's performance on each of the characteristics outlined in theory. Where possible, more than one of these measures are used. Of the seven necessary characteristics of cluster creation set out by theory, Atlanta seems to have achieved a passing grade regarding research university, labor pool, and city characteristics, but has a failing grade on policy and linkages. One interesting finding is that Atlanta receives a strong amount of venture capital investment in start-ups but is lacking in later stage companies. Atlanta's success as a cluster is dubious. It has proven somewhat successful in start-ups and in the so-called "Level II" technology companies that have lower levels of technology-oriented jobs and that tend to be more manufacturing focused. It is also possible that a technology cluster is forming in Atlanta, but that it is still in its infancy. With regard to policy, it is recommended that Atlanta gain certain policies that will allow for the characteristics of cluster formation (particularly investment and linkages--since those are the areas where Atlanta is or possibly is lacking) and replace policies that will hinder the growth of technology and investment in the technology industries.