Youngstown's first tech summit a success
By Jamison Cocklin
The Mahoning Valley played host to the region’s first high-profile technology meeting on Thursday, with vendors, guest speakers and a variety of professionals traveling to Youngstown to learn about emerging technology and how best to implement it in the workplace.
The Northeast Ohio Technology Summit was hosted by DRS LLC of Youngstown, an information technology consulting firm and service provider based in Youngstown. The event was at Youngstown State University’s Williamson School of Business, held in partnership with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
“We’re educating them, telling them what’s going on with technology and what the best applications are.” said DRS spokeswoman Lauren McNally. “We’re also showing what works best for small, midsized and large companies. Many of them don’t know that a lot of the technology designed for larger companies is now more affordable.”
In addition to 23 vendor tables, where technology companies showed off their services and had impromptu networking discussions, workshops and one-on-one meetings were all geared toward three key roles in the technology industry.
Each was designed specifically for either chief executives, chief investment officers or technology professionals. Subject matter was more in-depth and complex for technology professionals who install, maintain, or design hardware and software in the workplace. Sessions for business leaders were aimed at helping them learn how to better use technology for management purposes.
In all, McNally said 170 people registered to take part in the event. Many participants came from across the TechBelt region, which encompasses Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Ultimately, DRS and the event’s sponsors envisioned the technology summit as another way to grow the TechBelt by bringing companies from across the spectrum together to discuss their businesses and learn more about one another.
In Ohio, the technology industry is on the upswing. In January, the economic development organization JumpStart Inc. announced that young technology companies throughout Northeast Ohio attracted $201 million from investors in 2012, up 34 percent from 2011. Operations here and in other parts of the TechBelt are likely to grow in the coming years.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that combined employment in information technology occupations will increase by more than 800,000 jobs by 2016 — a 24 percent increase compared to a 10 percent growth rate for all occupations during the same time.
Tom Brick, of Independence-based Vizion Solutions, which provides data analytics services to help companies improve efficiency, said technology growth in Ohio is one reason why his company chose to set up a vending table at the technology summit. Brick was spending the day pitching the company’s services and talking about employment opportunities with anyone interested. Vizion has hired steadily in recent months, he said.
Ralph Blanco, president of Struthers-based Executive Computer Management Solutions, an IT management firm that maintains computer systems for a variety of different businesses, said his company has grown rapidly in the last three years. ECMSI, Blanco said, has hired a new employee about once every six to eight months.
“Technology has become so commonplace that companies view it more like paying for an electric bill,” he said, in explaining why his business has thrived.
Thursday’s event attracted big name companies such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard to participate in workshops. DRS officials said they will plan a similar event in Youngstown next year.