The growth of digital entertainment and media

Moderated by Rick Badie

Contributions of the film and television industry to our region’s economy have been well-publicized, but there’s a related sector that’s showing promising growth — digital entertainment. Today’s lead column shines light on this budding creative cluster. Elsewhere, advocates of the propane industry extol the benefits of using the fuel residentially and commercially. The third column notes the importance of creating a consistent brand, identity and locale for businesses and organizations.

The emerging digital market

By Asante Bradford, project manager of digital entertainment for the Georgia Dept. of Economic Development

Georgia has become a magnet for entertainment activity. Film and television productions created close to $5.1 billion in economic impact in fiscal year 14.

Yet film and TV are not the only entertainment sectors thriving here. Digital entertainment encompasses the creation and distribution of software, games, digital apps, music and even advanced concepts such as augmented reality, virtual reality and motion capture.

Digital entertainment giants such as Turner, Cox Communications and Cisco Scientific Atlanta continue to flourish here. These digital leaders join Dragon Army, Big Nerd Ranch, Rockfish Interactive and Floyd County Productions to make up the 70-plus digital entertainment companies clustered in Georgia.

Over the past few years, our department has supported more than 15 company relocations, all of which have created hundreds of advanced careers in digital production. Just this past month, we announced a second expansion from Hi-Rez Studios, a gaming company headquartered in Alpharetta.

There are key strengths digital entertainment companies continue to take advantage of in Georgia. These same factors will also support the digital entertainment boom in the future.

The ability to directly access creative, fresh talent from our universities and technical colleges is essential for digital entertainment companies and the industry’s future in Georgia. Nearly 20 colleges and universities offer interactive design career paths and thousands of students are engaged in interactive design classes or video game programs.

Last month, the Princeton Review ranked SCAD and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the top 25 for graduate and undergraduate programs in Game Design in 2015. The University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia produce more than 75,000 graduates each year. Graduates in a variety of areas, from graphic design, animation and computer engineering to gaming music soundtracks, are all entering Georgia’s talent pool with a fresh take on the industry.

Moreover, Georgia ranks in the top five U.S. states with the most software publishers. The technical talent and expertise in software development that Atlanta offers companies, coupled with the artistic creativity of its young population, is a competitive advantage.

The digital entertainment industry is changing at a rapid pace. It needs the right kind of collaborative culture to foster and support new ideas in the industry. Consumers are looking to Atlanta-based global leaders such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot and The Weather Channel to make their products and services more accessible, dynamic and mobile. As a result, we’re seeing corporations invest in innovation and research that touches on digital entertainment production.

An environment where gamers, engineers, animators, inventors, researchers, app developers, businessmen and corporate executives come together to collaborate on new ideas is crucial to moving the digital entertainment industry forward. This kind of culture is exactly what companies will find in Georgia.

Finally, rich media and video consumption, which includes streaming high-quality content over the Internet, creates a unique need for changes in data infrastructure. Increased Internet speeds and expanded broadband service is a major force behind the growth in entertainment and media.

With two of the country’s largest fiber optic routes intersecting in the city, metro Atlanta ranks in the top five U.S. markets for total bandwidth. The fact that Comcast, AT&T and Google Fiber have all announced plans to lay fiber in Atlanta over the next couple of years is a testament to the future of this industry in Georgia.

With a creative talent pool, collaborative corporate culture and a solid technology infrastructure, Georgia is well-equipped to support the digital entertainment boom. We are already on the playing field as a national media hub. We will continue to foster our growing cluster of digital entertainment talent in the area.

Click here to read more about Atlanta’s digital entertainment industry

Propane’s extensive value

By David Lugar and Dan Richardson, chairman of the National Propane Gas Association and president of the Georgia Propane Gas Association, respectively

Propane is widely known for its critical role in backyard barbecues. However, unbeknownst to many, its value extends far beyond the backyard. Nationally, about half of the propane Americans consume is used residentially, including home heating, water heating and clothes drying. The rest is used in commercial, industrial, agricultural applications and as an alternative vehicle fuel.

Last week, more than 2,500 members of the propane industry gathered to demonstrate the wide-ranging benefits of propane and to communicate that these benefits can and should be channeled in to other facets of our lives.

The Georgia General Assembly is currently considering HB 220, a bill that would provide up to $2,500 of tax credits for the purchase or lease of qualified low-emission vehicles, including those powered by propane. Tax credits like these are vital in moving fleets and individuals away from gasoline and diesel, an essential step for metro Atlanta to meet federal air quality standards. Getting more alternative fuel vehicles on the road also helps reduce our reliance on foreign oil and grow the economy.Here in Georgia, the propane industry is the driving force behind more than 1,500 jobs and more than $750 million in contributions to our state economy. Additionally, almost 185,000 Georgia homes rely on propane as their primary heating fuel.

Propane also plays a key role in the success of one of Georgia’s most innovative companies that touches the lives of school children every day. Blue Bird Corp., a school bus manufacturer based in Fort Valley, is the nation’s largest producer of propane-powered school buses. In 1993, the company rolled out its first propane-powered bus and school districts across the country are realizing the savings that come from using propane.

Fleet managers like propane because the refueling infrastructure is easy and inexpensive to install. In addition to private refueling stations, there are more than 125 public propane refueling stations throughout Georgia used by buses, delivery vans and trucks every day. Propane-powered buses are good for schoolchildren because propane produces 60 percent less carbon monoxide when compared with gasoline and up to 25 percent fewer greenhouse gases. Kids get a cleaner and quieter ride to school.

The benefits of using propane as a fuel extend into many types of fleets. The Sandy Springs Police Department wanted to save money and reduce its environmental impact so it integrated propane vehicles into its fleet. The agency now operates 67 propane-powered vehicles and reported the displacement of about 167 tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and savings of more than $200,000 in fuel costs in just two years. Police officers like driving the cruisers because propane is less flammable than gasoline and the tanks are 20 times more puncture-resistant.

Business owners across the country are realizing that propane is an environmentally-friendly tool to maximize performance, increase cost savings and achieve greater efficiency. More than 600,000 propane forklifts can now be found in factories and warehouses nationwide.

Similarly, propane-powered commercial mowers have proven to be effective in helping businesses cut fuel costs and drive down toxic emission levels. In fact, propane mowers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48 percent as compared to gasoline mowers. They are also quieter, another benefit for neighborhoods and communities.

The U.S. produces more propane than the retail market consumes, leaving an abundant supply to meet consumer needs. Whether you are headed to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in one of Groome Transportation’s propane-powered vans, waiting with your child at the bus stop or planning a backyard barbecue, propane is an important part of Georgia’s energy landscape. This clean, abundant and domestic source of energy has powered our lives for more than 100 years and holds great potential for the next 100.

Embrace your brand and locale

By Robert T. Hughes, principal at Hughes, Good, O’Leary & Ryan, an Atlanta-based landscape and design firm

Gone are the days when I-285 acts as the ironclad ring dictating Atlanta’s economic, educational and social borders. The Atlanta Braves are relocating from its iconic downtown location to Cobb County. Atlanta chef Ford Fry, who has created some of the best ITP restaurants, is extending his reach to Alpharetta. Even city colleges such as Georgia State University are partnering with schools OTP, like Georgia Perimeter College.

When a company or brand puts down its roots in a new area, many planners, designers and developers believe that by simply erecting a safety-code approved building, their job is done and the business can flourish in the new space. However, the new area needs to be a place – not a space.

Here are a few tips that will foster a common identity with a thriving culture when institutions merge.

  • Create a consistent identity with every place: Connectedness is essential when establishing a place that will effortlessly weave together “old” and “new.” If one of your entities is strictly focused on sustainability and another location prioritizes walkability, the user experience is going to be disrupted and your branding as a united front is going to suffer.

The sense of a consistent identity is why chain restaurants are so successful. People enjoy knowing the type of experience they will have, no matter which location they visit. To nurture a sense of place, dig to find your core values and incorporate them with the same consistent level of quality in each location.

  • Make the space more than functional. The better campus life a student has, the better chance a student has at excelling in the classroom. By creating a more social workplace, employees are happier.
  • Create a place that values relationships and where people feel connected to a larger identity. People are more engaged and likely to succeed when they feel connected to something larger. Don’t skimp on outdoor gathering places, convivial indoor social areas and collaborative work spaces.

In this digital age with cloud technology and smartphones, more work than ever can be completed away from the classroom and office. As a result, we have to make places that people are excited to wake up and visit. To accomplish this, our places must instill a pride and connectedness within people.

  • Tie your space to the community. What are the great places in our community? Where does one go for big and small activities? Identify those vital keystones, then integrate your new identity with those. Atlanta already has an extensive network of parks, outdoor spaces, unique neighborhoods, historic sites and other things that transform a Southern city into a global metropolis. Initiate partnerships with existing places that can help foster your identity and culture.

The best part of creating place is being ethical stewards, which we owe to future generations. By embracing your brand identity, creating a social environment and connecting yourself to the existing community, you’ll make your house a home – or your space into a place.

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