Lowell Pratt, small business coordinator and director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, was the guest speaker at the meeting. He emphasized that Confluence, an innovation conference that was held in February, was instrumental in opening doors for the Rome and Floyd County community.
Pratt was enthusiastic about the number of teens and young adults that flocked to the gathering, noting that the future workforce is already jumping on the trends of the future.
“What inspires me most was to see a lot of the high school and college students at the event taking notes, learning, hearing some of the expertise and inspiring them to be the next generation of our innovators and entrepreneurs and creative folks and the like,” he said.
Confluence was an opportunity to share some of the local innovations that are sweeping the community and get creative minds to start thinking about what’s coming up next, he said. The event attracted leaders, technologists, entrepreneurs, students and artists.
“There is a lot of value in creativity and innovating ... to help create a culture of innovating and problem-solving by doing three things,” Pratt said. “The first was exposing people to inspiring ideas, businesses, processes ... the second part was bringing people together ... and the third piece was showcasing these disruptive, new ideas and experiences through short talks and keynotes.”
When the initial ideas for what would become Confluence were beginning to form more than a decade ago, Chamber employees sought to identify the emerging trends that are affecting local businesses to large enterprises, Pratt explained. They asked themselves whether the conference would focus on technology or innovation, ultimately deciding on the latter.
“We really wanted it to be more about innovation, which is something that impacts everyone and it’s happening regardless of whether you’re tuned in or not,” Pratt said. “Was it a chance to get a bunch of geeks and nerds and technology folks in the room together to talk about technical stuff and a lot of jargon? It’s not just about tech geeks and nerds. It’s about really explaining the developments of some of these things that are happening.”
The conference drew 340 people from not only the local area but from Atlanta, Chattanooga and other areas throughout the Northwest Georgia region, he said. Confluence afforded prime networking opportunities for local entrepreneurs and enterprisers.
The two-day “giant innovation conference” at the DeSoto Theatre on Feb. 21-22 impacted the local culture of the community in a vastly positive way, Pratt said.