Charting the future of economic development through technology was the focus of a meeting that drew a large turnout of business people, as well as government leaders, to the Thomson Depot on Monday night.
The meeting was the second part of an open public and private sector forum of the OneGeorgia BRIDGE Grant application. Officials hope to use the grant to establish rural broadband, as well as to provide technology for future economic development in Thomson and McDuffie County.
Greg Laudeman, project manager of Community Innovation Services with Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, served as guest speaker. Locally, the forum was put together by Kelly Evans, who serves as the city/county IT director.
Government leaders of both the city and county earlier had encouraged local participation so that grant funding for such a program can continue in Thomson and McDuffie County.
In letters sent out to various business leaders by local government officials, it was explained that the input from both public and private sectors is vital in determining where this area is headed in the future and how technology can help in getting where city and county business and officials want to be someday.
"We need you present to help define the vision," wrote city/county officials. "Failure to garner your participation will result in denial of grant funding. We cannot compete for this grant without participation and buy-in from every sector. We appreciate your commitment to this community."
A total of 56 local business and government officials attended the 90-minute meeting, which included public participation. Many of them were local elected officials. They included: Thomson Mayor Robert E. Knox Jr., Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Usry, Councilman John Smalley, Councilman Jaye Jones, Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley, McDuffie County Commissioner Sammie Wilson Sr., and McDuffie County Board of Education members Georgia Hobbs, Ella Mae Samuels and Dorothy Hart.
"I want to know how technical knowledge is benefiting you and how we can use it for technology in economic development," Mr. Laudeman said. "These meetings are not about technology as much as they are about how to use it."
Mr. Laudeman praised those who attended the meeting, saying, "We consider this a small down payment" on a future investment for economic development.
Meetings like Monday night are needed because it develops a team-like atmosphere.
"This is something that needs collaboration and strategy planning," Mr. Laudeman said. "It's a time to figure out what you want to do; then figure out how to do it and then get it done."
In order to achieve those goals or benchmarks, Mr. Laudeman said, leadership becomes a key element.
"You must have leadership for direction and for strategic issues," he pointed out. "This is what makes you productive. You must have productivity. It makes you more productive."
He also urged the importance of using Tech Smart road mapping to get where the group wants to go.
It helps avoid mistakes along the way.
"If you don't know where you're going, that's where you'll wind up," he noted.
The next meeting, the third phase of the forum, is planned for Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. - again at the Thomson Depot. That meeting will focus on charting a future course for Thomson and McDuffie County.