The four-day series of events beginning Thursday under the title of Spark Growth: Riverwalk 2013 are designed to boost the region's technology community and spur economic development. This visionary conference intends to inspire a community conversation and collaboration that lasts well beyond a few days.
While Manatee County's economy is centered around tourism, greater diversification is vital, and the aspirational field of high technology is currently the gold standard as regions around the country scramble to attract the brightest brains.
This inaugural event is a joint endeavor of Spark Growth and BarCamp Sarasota-Bradenton in collaboration with Realize Bradenton, whose place-making plans include creating a community that has strong attractions to a creative workforce. Riverwalk is a prime example of that vision.
The event will shine a spotlight on Manatee County's current vibrant technology industries and brainstorm about nurturing that environment to draw new jobs. Promoting the available workforce is a key component to that effort.
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Spark Growth's mission is the development and implementation of multi-organizational and community-based initiatives. BarCamp Sarasota-Bradenton is an open-source development and Internet technologies organization.
The various presentations hold a wide appeal with some designed for venture capitalists, a critical driver of business formation and innovation. One of the major events will focus on what is known as disruptive innovation and disruptive technology, which describe efforts to create the next big thing that could influence the industry and build a new consumer market. Apple's iPod, iPad and iPhone are great examples of that. Now smart phones are ubiquitous.
On Friday, Jim Stikeleather, Dell Computers' chief information officer, will discuss disruptive technologies as the keynote speaker during the day-long Spark Growth Economic Development Summit. The summit will also be an major opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, business people and technology managers to network.
On Thursday, the Coding For Nonprofits session will challenge programmers to design an event content management system for Realize Bradenton. With that in hand, the organization will be better able to collaborate with city, police, fire and public works officials about coordinating event requests for the hugely popular Riverwalk. This new program will be vital to the continued success of the park. The event, at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, will also showcase the versatility and value of this sparkling new venue.
Saturday should appeal to young people during the BarCamp Un-Conference, an unstructured free event designed to inspire creativity and share ideas. Think mobile apps, social media trends, patent issues and web marketing.
On the day of this event, anyone can sign up to give a presentation. Appropriately, this will be held at the new Manatee Technical Institute campus.
On Sunday, the Riverwalk pavilion will host the fourth-annual Sustainability Shindig with food, drink and music wrapped around the promotion of sustainable building and business practices.
It takes a community to grow the economy. That's the underlying theme of this conference. Connecting people who otherwise would miss networking is only the beginning. Hopefully, this is the start of a lasting collaborative movement.
If you go
Registration: www.SparkGrowth.net and www.bcsrq.com