My Point of View – by Curtis Palmer

… from the Birmingham News 07 Jan ’07 Sunday Paper – as submitted for publication

Birmingham was created by entrepreneurs who saw raw materials in close proximity and recognized an opportunity to create a city around an industry. Today’s Birmingham is not much different. The raw materials in the form of creativity, business prowess, and strong intellectual property also stand behind a burgeoning technology industry. This has implications in all facets of our lives and TechBirmingham is in the process of helping put this region onto the world stage.

This week marks the 4th anniversary of moving my family to the Birmingham area and taking the leadership role at TechBirmingham. In Atlanta, I had helped launch Internet companies and worked in Venture Capital. Taking these skills to a new region to help grow the technology economy appealed to me back then, but I had no idea how exciting this role in the community would become.

TechBirmingham has a rich history of making an impact on the community in both quiet and lasting ways. Our Tech Industry Initiatives strengthen and grow existing and fledgling technology companies and entrepreneurs. Community Initiatives support organizations that provide technology opportunities for students, from elementary school through college. And, our Exposure Initiatives spread the word about Birmingham’s technology ecosystem to those within and outside our metro area. We also advocate on behalf of the tech industries when working with recruitment and economic development agencies in our region.

Most citizens may associate TechBirmingham with our Ecycling Day efforts, the Entrepreneurial District in downtown Birmingham, or the creation of new venture capital sources. Other recent and equally important activities, however, include the following:

  • TechBirmingham regularly convenes an ad-hoc group known as the TechCouncil. It represents the leadership of more than 30 tech clubs. Together we staged two TechMixers in 2006. These events drew a total of 1,000 tech professionals in a social expo format. A third TechMixer is scheduled for this coming May.
  • TechBirmingham wants to be part of Birmingham’s branding efforts and has taken a leadership role in developing a working model for promoting the growing technology component of the region. The resulting “CHANGE campaign” features three diverse technology leaders appearing in their own 30-second commercials. The three themes in the initial package challenge the viewer to change their mind, their future, and their lifestyle by considering Birmingham as a great place to live. In fact, the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “cool communities” task force recommended that the chamber adopt a similar program to recruit and retain young professionals.
  • TechBirmingham supports regional and statewide efforts to recruit businesses with a tech focus. For instance, we recently partnered with the Alabama IT Association to play matchmaker between targeted technology companies in India and venture capital sources here in Alabama. We hope to create new small businesses by pairing international technology operations with our region’s strong sales and marketing executives, backed by local capital sources. This is our organization’s attempt to change the tide of outsourcing and create a bit of “reverse sourcing” to benefit our local economy.

Everyone is invited to learn more about these and other new initiatives on February 22nd at the TechBirmingham Annual Meeting.

I remain as excited about Birmingham’s future with technology as when I arrived. The coming year promises to bring even more excitement in the technology community. If I could change but one thing, it would be to convince my fellow citizens to stop saying quietly, “I think I can,” and start saying with conviction, “I know I can.” Together we can all bring positive change to our region and keep us moving forward.

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