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Monday, December 3, 2012 - 1:02pm

Georgia Needs To Fix Its Brand

Georgia has some of the nation’s top universities. But it can be a struggle to convey that selling point to prospective companies.

Officials say Georgia has the workforce, universities and the natural resources to compete with North Carolina’s Research Triangle business and higher education area.

But they say many people don’t know that.

Chris Cummiskey heads the state’s economic development effort. Speaking in Atlanta at the first-ever University System Economic Development Conference, he says Georgia needs to get better at attracting innovative companies and keeping college graduates in the state.

And he says he knows what the state needs to do.

“We have to look at how we brand ourselves," he told university officials, lawmakers and others. "We have to get people to realize there’s a reason you should be here and stay here because the growth of our future is going to be the innovation jobs.”

Cummiskey said state and university officials will be looking at ways next year to re-tool the state’s brand and get the word out about what Georgia has to offer.

Gov. Nathan Deal appeared by remote video at the event. And he said Georgia’s universities have a $13 billion-dollar impact on the state’s economy. One panel at the event focused on how researchers are finding ways to help rural communities reap the benefit of innovations developed at state universities.

David Hess is with Georgia Health Sciences University. He says many rural hospitals lack medical specialists. His university helps them access needed expertise remotely. That’s especially useful for stroke victims for whom he said every minute makes a difference.

“A lot of these little hospitals have a lot of trouble taking care of acute stroke patients so we provide specialists within a few minutes through a telemedicine system,” he said in an interview before the panel.

Hess says Georgia is in the heart of the so-called stroke belt. Georgia has the highest mortality rate for stroke victims. But he says helping small hospitals get the expertise they need will help reduce the rate.

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