Photo by Eric Mansfield

Today, it’s hard to imagine Tech without Tech Square, and also hard to realize that it is only 10 years old.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to former Tech President Wayne Clough, along with dozens of others who had both the vision and perseverance to turn what was a blighted area with underdeveloped real estate, vacant lots and barbed wire into what is now one of the leading innovation ecosystems in the Southeast.

Tech Square currently encompasses eight city blocks and includes a unique complex of academic, retail and research space. The tree-lined Fifth Street Bridge that links the main campus of the Institute with Tech Square looks more like a park than a bridge, and has become a favorite tailgating site.

The Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center and the adjacent Global Learning Center provide a place for lifelong learning and problem solving, as well as meeting spaces for both campus and external events.

Our Professional Education program now has a home in one of the nation’s best conference centers.

Our students in the Scheller College of Business benefit from a living laboratory where business and education meld and students have the privilege of participating in business operations of many of the areas most significant companies.

It is a crossroads of innovation. Both startups and established companies are attracted to Tech Square, in large part because of the access it provides to some of the brightest and most innovative students in the world. Centergy One houses some 40 startups, many of which employ Tech students. In addition, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) and other partners in economic development and innovation make their home there.

In August, AT&T opened a foundry innovation center, one of only four in the world.

Last year, Panasonic opened an automotive innovation center, hiring students and graduates who are helping to develop the next generation of in-vehicle multimedia infotainment systems.

These are just two examples of dozens, attracted in part by access to our intellectual capital.

Some of you have participated in Tech’s Flashpoint program, as well as the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, or have taken advantage of Hypepotamus Atlanta, a startup center located in the Biltmore Hotel that provides free collaborative space for innovators.

It’s not all work, and I know that you have enjoyed access to the many retail stores and restaurants in an inviting and energetic environment, whether grabbing a late night bite in Waffle House or shopping in the world’s smallest Walmart, GameStop or Barnes & Noble. Starbucks continues to be an innovation hub for meeting friends, studying and brainstorming creative ideas.

Tech Square is a special place. The concept is innovative, and a number of other universities have come to Atlanta to see if they can replicate it. Tech Square is a testament to what is possible through partnerships between higher education, the state, business and industry.

As you walk through that part of our campus this month, be sure to notice the banners and signs commemorating the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Tech Square.

This complex is fast becoming one of the most creative and innovative entrepreneurial communities in the Southeast, and you are in the middle of it.