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A virtual universe, tens of thousands of years in the future, where looming planets dazzle the eye and competing asteroid miners battle for power.

A self-checkout lane in today”s retail stores, where hurried consumers scan their own purchases.

What do the two have in common? Gwinnett County.

Advancing technology, creating jobs, partnering with education and supporting the community are all on the "to do" list for Gwinnett”s high-tech companies.

Alongside Gwinnett”s interstates and highways and tucked in its business and industrial parks are high-tech companies making their mark in entertainment, communication, defense and an assortment of disparate disciplines.

Near Stone Mountain, workers for CCP North America/White Wolf nurture the "Eve Online" science fiction world for a quarter million online gamers, while in Duluth, NCR Corporation designs and develops systems that speed shoppers through payment lines.

High technology is a busy business in Gwinnett – one whose achievements provide stimulating fodder for conversation. Consider these examples that merit a "Made in Gwinnett" label:

  • EMS Technologies Inc., headquartered in Gwinnett, has antennas on three planets — Saturn, Mars and Earth. It leads the way in technology that makes cell phone use possible on airplanes. EMS produces auto antennas for XM radio and satellite antenna systems for the B-2 stealth bomber and F-22 Raptor.
  • At Suniva Inc., employees in lab coats, protective eyewear and shoe covers work in a clean environment, using robotics to create cost-effective, efficient cells for solar energy panels.
  • Meggitt Training Systems in Suwanee develops virtual and live training programs for military and law enforcement around the world.
  • Cisco-Scientific Atlanta designs and develops communication equipment and systems. Overall, the company produces 70 percent of the equipment that makes the Internet work. In Gwinnett, the focus is on products such as cable television converter boxes, switched digital video and IPTV (television content delivered through computer network technology).

The list goes on, and just how far is difficult to measure. Alfie Meek, director of Gwinnett County”s Economic Analysis Division, said one formula for tracking high-tech employment indicates there were 50,500 such jobs in Gwinnett in the first quarter of 2008 — about 16 percent of the county”s employment base.

Gwinnettians account for 20 percent of the membership of the American Electronics Association (AeA) Southeast Council, according to Paul Domorski, president and CEO of EMS Technologies Inc. Domorski is chairman of the AeA Southeast Council”s executive committee.

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