Movers and shakers in Northwest Arkansas have worked for a year volunteering more than 3,000 hours toward the upcoming Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit and its two pre-summit events. It will mark the fifth year for the event, organized by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Debbie Griffin, the chamber’s chief operating officer, said roughly 3,000 people will attend the three sessions, which kick off Oct. 22 with the second annual Women in Technology Summit and the new MedTech Healthcare Summit. Both of the events are being held at John Q. Hammons Center (JQH) in Rogers. The events start around 8 a.m. and run until 4 p.m.
The NWA Technology Summit, the main event, will take place all day on Oct. 23, also at JQH. Kelly Robason of Intel is the chairwoman of this year’s event. Meredith Lowry, a Rogers attorney with Wright Lindsey Jennings, is chairwoman of the Women in Tech and MedTech events.
Griffin said the summit has grown from 400 attendees in its first year (2013). Last year, Griffin said 2,100 people attended the two days of sessions, selling out the space. As of Oct. 8, she said there were about 100 tickets remaining for this year’s events.
About 35% of those attending will travel to the region from elsewhere. The attendee traveling the longest distance to get to this year’s conference is Shelley Kuipers from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. Kuipers is the CEO of founding partner of IOVIA, which will be featured in the new Startup Alley attraction of this year’s main summit.
“We have added a Startup Alley that will feature 15 startups who will be pitching their companies,” Griffin said. “There are over 100 speakers at this year’s events, and we have shortened the length of the presentations to add more breakout training sessions for attendees.”
Griffin said the speakers at the three events this year include local tech executives from J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Walmart, RevUnit and the University of Arkansas, as well as technology professionals from Intel, IBM, Microsoft, AT&T, Salesforce and Samsung. She said presenters are recruited from a steering committee made up of 25 industry technology professionals who meet monthly to plan the summit.
“The chairs of each event are volunteers, and they also take on a large share of the planning and recruitment of speakers,” Griffin said. “Speakers are recommended by the steering committee, and we work within different areas of technology to make sure we are offering sessions that not only deal with emerging technology, but will teach in several areas and give resources to make immediate impact in the workplace. We work through a nomination process and also recruit some speakers to make sure we are hitting several different areas of interest.”
Griffin said the speakers pay their own traveling expenses to Northwest Arkansas as a way to promote the region and share their knowledge. But the event wouldn’t be possible without a host of corporate sponsors who help underwrite the expense. This year, AT&T and J.B. Hunt are presenting sponsors, while Intel, Google Cloud, Movista, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, Quadrivium and Walmart are each major sponsors.
Griffin also said there will be more than 50 exhibitors at this year’s event.
Griffin said the new healthcare element of the technology summit came about because of the high interest during the past two years.
“This has been a very popular track, and with the efforts to make Northwest Arkansas a healthcare destination, the time was right to include this conference,” she said. “As the area continues to grow, quality healthcare is vital and part of the strategic plan of the Northwest Arkansas Council.
“Widening the offerings for this event brings more people to our area, and we have seen firsthand that connections formed at this conference have impacted future business. We hope that will also be the case for the healthcare conference,” she added.
The MedTech Healthcare Summit will bring top leaders from the region’s medical providers to the stage. Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Mercy Health, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Northwest Health, Baptist Health, Washington Regional Medical System and Highlands Oncology will each be presenting.
The event will also feature speakers from IBM, Teradata, Health InnovatAR and other healthcare technology companies and innovators. Griffin said roughly 250 attendees have signed up for the event, and there are still tickets available. A keynote speech will also feature a discussion from Tony Buettner on Blue Zones, which are areas around the globe where efforts are made to enhance life expectancy. Other topics include cancer genomic testing and robotics.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital is the founding sponsor of MedTech, and Nabholz Construction is the keynote speaker sponsor, with added support for UAMS.
WOMEN IN TECH
The theme of this year’s Women in Tech Summit, sponsored by Walmart Spark Women and Cox Communications, is “Push for Progress.”
“We are looking for a 25% to 30% increase in attendees in this year’s Women in Tech event,” Griffin said. “We have attendees from several different companies, but a large interest from J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and Walmart.”
This year’s Women in Tech event has added machine learning and artificial intelligence tracks to the agenda. Griffin said the main stage presentations again were shortened to give attendees the opportunity to hear from more keynote speakers. The event will offer some hands-on activities and testing of the technology being discussed. This event will feature discussions on diversity in hiring, as well as upcoming tech trends and innovations across multiple industries.