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Confluence festival to feature talks on effort to make Grand Rapids regional tech hub

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Confluence, a festival focused on art, music, science and technology, will host several panel discussions next month on efforts to transform Grand Rapids into a regional tech hub.

The discussions will be held April 18-19 at Grand Valley State University’s Center for Interprofessional Health, 333 Michigan St. NE. Participants are to include officials from Google, Corewell Health, Gentex, AEBentancourt, The Right Place, The Diatribe and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, according to an announcement.

“This year we explore the opportunities and challenges of transforming our region into a technology hub,” Brian Cohen, senior producer at Confluence, said in a press release.

“Leaders will discuss what can be learned from other communities that are successfully attracting and reskilling talent, how education can move beyond its traditional roots to become more project and skills-based, and how we can create compelling storylines that help us let go of the status quo and move confidently toward the future.”

The two-day event is free and open to the public.

Regional economic development group The Right Place, which is based in Grand Rapids, has been leading a push to strengthen West Michigan’s tech sector. In September, the organization said it wants to attract 20,000 tech workers in Grand Rapids over the next decade. It also wants the tech sector to comprise 10% of the region’s employment, up from 6% today.

Related: Plan to grow Grand Rapids into major, Midwestern tech hub outlined by The Right Place

The agenda for next month’s two-day event is as follows:

Tuesday, April 18

Welcome Remarks, 8:30 a.m.-8:45 a.m. Fatma Mili, Ph.D, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs (GVSU)

It’s All About Talent: Developing a Tech Base for the Future, 8:45 a.m.–10:15 a.m. Art Betancourt (AEBetancourt), Stella Michael (Corewell Health), Deborah Lyzenga (MI Department of Labor & Economic Opportunities), and Daniel Quintanilla (Gentex) in conversation with John Rumery (West Michigan Tech Talent)

Opportunity Stories: Learning from Others, 10:30 a.m.-noon Dan Chuparkoff (Google/Reinvention Labs), Jonathan Engelsma (GVSU), Robert Fleischman (Ferris State), and Rob Llanes (The Right Place) in conversation with Jen Wangler (The Right Place)

Wednesday, April 19

Solution Stories: Where Grassroots Innovation, Community Driven Policy and Future Skills-Oriented Learning Can Take Us, 8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m. Marcel Price (The Diatribe), Dr. Leadriane Roby (GRPS), Joanne Roehm (WMUx), and David Stout (Iris Technology) in conversation with Marion Siebert (Brightly)

Future Stories: We’re Not Alone, 10:30 a.m.-noon Prem Bodagala (Michigan Rise), Carl Erickson (Atomic Object), Rachel Gray (Hello West Michigan), and Trista Van Tine (Michigan Founders Fund) in conversation with Crain’s Grand Rapids Business

Read more:

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