Tech Town Hall Panelists Address Cleveland’s Tech Challenges

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On October 1st, 2014, OneCommunity, in partnership with The Civic Commons ideastream hosted the first ever Tech Town Hall.

The goal of the Town Hall was to allow a platform of thought leaders to get together and talk about the role of technology and innovation on the economy of Northeast Ohio. With the infrastructure in place through organizations like OneCommunity, combined with the small and large companies that are advancing innovation in the marketplace, Northeast Ohio is uniquely positioned to become a destination for technology investment and growth in the years ahead.

What are we doing well? But more importantly, what can we do better? And what will be needed in order to put policies in place to contribute to that success? These were the questioned that were going to be asked by NPR Technology Correspondent Elise Hu. However, due to a flight delay, Hu was unable to make it in time for the event. So with just two hours’ notice, Mike Shaferenko, Manager, Civic Engagement, Web and Social Media for ideastream, stepped in to moderate the discussion.

Dr. Julian Earls

Dr. Julian Earls opened the Tech Town Hall event.

The event was opened by Dr. Julian Earls, the Executive-In-Residence at Cleveland State University and the former Executive Director of the NASA Glenn Research Center. Dr. Earls articulated how it is just as important to have the human element in the advancement of science because it cannot be replicated by machine. He went on to say that the human element is the driving point of creativity and innovation and why it was so important to have the community representation that was present on the panel.

The Tech Town Hall panel included:

  • Jerry Duffy, General Manager, Global Product Management at GE Lighting;
  • Jeff Mowry, Chief Information Officer, Cuyahoga County;
  • Jennifer Neundorfer, COO/CFO, Flashstarts Accelerator Fund; and
  • JT Tan, Gorilla Group Leadership Team and Healthcare Industry Technology Expert.

The overall theme of the discussion was that Cleveland, like many other cities, faces challenges around the issue of workforce preparedness. However, because of the presence of major healthcare institutions, as well as the support of both public and private sector leadership, that Cleveland can capitalize on the investments that will come from innovative companies.

Another key takeaway from both the panel discussion and the subsequent Q & A was that Northeast Ohio should not rest on its laurels and historic achievements. Northeast Ohio and the entire State of Ohio has to begin reaching and teaching the young minds of high school students and other school-age children to get them thinking about the importance of STEM education.

Overall, the first-ever Tech Town Hall was a resounding success. With more than 110 individuals in attendance, the event helped to bring together citizens from around the region to talk about how we can better move our city, region and state forward in the 21st century.

The panel consisted of (left to right): Moderator Mike Shafarenko, Manager, Civic Engagement, Web and Social Media, ideastream; Jerry Duffy, GM, Global Product Management, GE Lighting; Jeff Mowry, CIO, Cuyahoga County; Jennifer Neuendorfer, COO/CFO, Flashstarts jAccelerator Fund; and JT Tan, Gorilla Group Leadership Team and Healthcare Industry Technology Expert.


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