Confluence, formerly known as the Spectrum of Technology conference, will be hosted by the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 21-22.
Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce president Al Hodge said that when the Rome-Floyd 20/20 program, which set a vision for the county, was initially developed while the community was in an analog world.
When AT&T invested some $7 million bringing a “digital switch” to Rome and Floyd County, it opened the door.
“It was the key to helping technology-enabled businesses either to be established, or more likely at that point, to grow,” Hodge said.
Several years ago, during a Chamber visit to Washington, the delegation lobbied hard for an expansion of broadband opportunities in the Rome area. A grant was provided through the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and Hodge now wonders how it will be used in the most beneficial manner.
What came to be known as Spec Tech was created to foster the kind of critical thinking and networking opportunities to pair entrepreneurs with investors.
One of the first tangible outgrowths of the Spec Tech series was the Northwest Georgia Regional Angel Investors Network. DermaTran, a new pharmaceutical lab based in Rome, is also an outgrowth of the think tank series.
Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, will be the keynote speaker.
“We really re-envisioned the event from the ground up to be one of inspiration, from the most senior of executives at the most established of enterprises, down to a student trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their life,” said Tricia Seifert, who chaired the conference organizing committee. “We make, we heal and we teach those are the three things that we do in this community so we are including elements of inspiration from each of those areas but we’re not limiting ourselves to those areas.”
Getting Anderson to come to Rome was the lynchpin for developing the Confluence event this year.
Hodge said last year’s event was referred to as an innovation station.
“People that attended continued to be impressed with content, with who is there,” Hodge said. “They had high expectations and their high expectation were exceeded because of who was there as a speaker and who was there in the audience.”
Earl Robinson, from Boeing’s Moonshine Shop, represents a department that is given a lot of freedom while assigned to make improvements within the company.
“He’s coming on behalf of big manufacturing to talk about how you use some of these innovative, start-up and lean thought patterns to create change and savings and increase revenue,” Seifert said.
Chris Veins, chief innovation officer for a department within the World Bank, will bring a unique understanding of the relationship between local, state and federal governments on an infrastructure level. He will talk about promoting innovation within communities.
Amy Cortese, who coined the phrase “locavesting,” has undertaken numerous case studies connecting the idea of investing in the local community, will talk about the Jobs Act and the way it has impacted access to investment for small businesses. “That’s going to be powerful and of interest to our Main Street retail type businesses,” Seifert said. “To know the kind of tools that they have available to be competitive on a much large scale, as well as obtaining investment from their own customers and communities.”
Hubspot, one of the fastest growing software companies in the nation, will have a representative at the Confluence event to talk about tools that small businesses can use to compete on the Internet to be able to compete on a global scale.
Seifert said several local entrepreneurs would be on panel to make innovation presentations both in terms of physical products and in digital settings. A special robotics program will also be a part of the program again this year.
Two new elements to the conference this year will be a session dealing with innovation in the arts on Thursday, Feb 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at 7Hills Makerspace on Broad Street.
Participants will have an opportunity to browse innovations on behalf of local makers.
The sessions will be shorter this year.
“There will be lots of opportunities for people to converse and connect with other attendees in between sessions, which is often times, is just as valuable as hearing great ideas,” Seifert said.
All of the main programs will take place in the historic DeSoto Theatre, the first theatre built for talking movies in the South.
“The theatre is a perfect venue but it also means that we’re limited to 500 so people who intend to attend should act,” Seifert said.
Hodge said the Chamber is planting a different seed as part of Rome-Floyd 20-20 Part Three, which is going to be launched later this year. “Stay tuned for economic gardening, stay tuned for even more emphasis on technology-enabled business going forward to really represent the next generation of opportunities,” Hodge said.