Start A BusinessEntrepreneurshipHow the Metro Atlanta Chamber is Fostering the Local Innovation Community -...

How the Metro Atlanta Chamber is Fostering the Local Innovation Community – Alex Gonzalez

ASBN’s Jim Fitzpatrick was on location at the Atlanta Corporate Innovation Summit, and caught up with Alex Gonzalez, who is the new Chief Innovation Officer for the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce to discuss the future relationship between the chamber and entrepreneurial innovation.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome to ASBN.

Alex Gonzalez: Thank you, thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.

Alex Gonzalez: Happy to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure, and I understand it’s kind of a new position for you.

Alex Gonzalez: This is day four-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Day four, congratulations.

Alex Gonzalez: … and we purposely picked it, because this is unofficial. I’ve been calling it Innovation Week in Atlanta.

alex gonzalez

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.

Alex Gonzalez: Because we’ve had tech stars at a big event at the beginning of the year.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Alex Gonzalez: Or at the beginning of the week, Venture Atlanta had a two-day event.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that was great.

Alex Gonzalez: Engage, and here we are working with the Bridge Community at the Corporate Innovation Summit.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure, sure. So what will your responsibilities be at the Chamber? What’s the goal?

Alex Gonzalez: Yeah, so it’s a new role. It’s based on the foundation of the Innovation Entrepreneurship Department that the Chamber’s had for a few years, but for me, it’s quite simple. It’s to enable the Chamber’s goal of attracting companies, growing jobs and so forth. More specifically, my role is to first of all curate, then connect to the innovation community here in Atlanta which to me, it’s very broad from startups to corporations.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It is.

Alex Gonzalez: Creative to tech.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, it is.

Alex Gonzalez: But then including our great education platforms here with all the universities, and tell our story all over the world.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And we’re at the Atlanta Corporate Innovation Summit. Talk to us about the importance of events like this and what small companies and startups and individuals can get out of it.

Alex Gonzalez: Yeah, so there’s a couple of dimensions. First of all, any event like this, I always say you get what you put into it, and the connectivity is very important, so there’s a massive ecosystem here, and just, even if it’s startup to startup, just getting to know each other and sharing, that’s important. The second is about best practices. Earlier today, there was some best practice sessions.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So the Atlanta Metro Chamber obviously plays a huge role with some of the bigger corporations that are here in Atlanta. Is it safe to say that they’re making more of a stride for some of the small business and startups than maybe they have in the past?

Alex Gonzalez: Yeah, I’d say we’ve probably … We’re always a supporter of the ecosystem in general, and at the end of the day, a good business environment is good for whether it’s a startup or whether it’s the largest company down the road here, and so we’ve historically and continue to be very close, particularly the startup tech community.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Alex Gonzalez: And so yeah, we will absolutely continue to be involved with those communities. And mainly through creating platforms and working with partners at the bridge community and others that our work would start to help. Making sure that they’re successful. Making sure that we can give them the exposure and visibility and then we also help in other ways too. Because, one issue for instance that I hear whether you’re at a Fortune 50 company or whether you’re a startup is talent.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Alex Gonzalez: We spend a lot of time at the Metro Atlanta Chamber in particular marketing our region so the best talent wants to live here so if you’re starting a business and you need to hire whether it’s a salesperson, a marketer or someone in tech that you’re going to have that talent available.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And that’s a big thing with the unemployment rate so incredibly low and at record lows some of that talent’s going elsewhere. They’re not going with the new startups. Right?

alex gonzalezAlex Gonzalez: Yeah, but you know what I love about Atlanta it’s again the diversity in every aspect in terms of how people even want to work. You know you hear a lot about the millennials wanting to work differently, dynamically and I like to say millennial. I live in a millennial lifestyle, right, so even though I’m much older than that. I think Atlanta is such a dynamic city that could embrace the opportunity for talent that maybe one day be working at Coke and then the next day be working for a startup. Going back and forth.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. It’s a good point. It’s a very good point.

Alex Gonzalez: That’s really healthy for the ecosystem. By the way we also have incredible agency network here in Atlanta so if you think about someone who maybe one day is marketing a big brand and maybe will have a lifestyle change. They might want to work for an agency that might be doing good things for other brands. We just have it all here in Atlanta.

Jim Fitzpatrick: We really do. Well, Alex Gonzalez, congratulations on your new position.

Alex Gonzalez: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much for joining us on the ASBN network. We appreciate it very much. Hopefully we can talk to you in a few months and see how the new job’s going and some of the challenges that you’re facing.

Alex Gonzalez: I look forward to it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much.

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