Lt. Gov. launches tech task force

ATLANTA — Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan launched his Georgia Innovates Task Force Monday flanked by politicians and technology moguls.

Co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the committee is hoping to make the state the “technology capitol of the East Coast.”

Duncan opened the first meeting with expectations and told members he doesn’t want “short-term sugar highs.”

“We want this group of individuals to really truly produce meaningful ideas that cultivate an environment of innovation, incubation, investment,” he said.

During a pre-session media conference, Duncan told reporters exploring technology to improve transportation, K-12 education and rural health access are on the top of his list.

The committee is tasked with identifying new technological opportunities to grow businesses and obstacles or regulations that are inhibiting business growth.

The panel will be split into four subcommittees to study public innovation, rural initiatives, entrepreneurship and education and training.

Peterson said Georgia has some advantages to becoming the innovation leader on the East Coast.

It is the home of key international contributors like the Port of Savannah, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, he said.

“This isn’t an Atlanta story,” Duncan said. “This is a Georgia story ... And I truly think we're going to look back in the next 10 years, 20 years as this being a turning point moment for the entire state of Georgia.”

Isakson said he signed onto the task force after retirement because he backs Duncan’s efforts to spearhead innovation.

“Nothing’s more important than what we’re doing here,” he said.

The committee floats various private sector entrepreneurs, policy advisors and CEOs.

Mike Dudgeon, policy director in the lieutenant governor’s office said that the task force is about “making this something real” and not just something that “sounds good.”

Various Georgia task forces have come under scrutiny in the past for delayed starts or minimal output. To avoid a vague timeline, the task force has already set a schedule to produce “actionable items” on the best policies, practices and processes to spur innovation in the state.

The group's second meeting is during the first week of April to hear reports from the subcommittees on their findings. The third meeting is scheduled for June to start to refine recommendations. The fourth and final meeting is set for July, to finalize key findings and present them to the lieutenant governor.

This is a “catalyst moment,” Duncan said.

Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.

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