The inaugural Information Technology (IT) Summit held May 27-28 at The University of Texas-Pan American Engineering Building attracted more than 250 participants interested in learning about IT economic development, education and industry issues as well as the opportunity to network with IT professionals and how, more specifically, to support the development of the Rio Grande Valley into a nationally competitive IT and biotechnology corridor.
The summit was sponsored by UTPA's Computing and Information Technology Center (CITeC) in collaboration with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa.
At Friday morning's kickoff, Dr. Richard Fowler, professor in the Department of Computer Science and director of CITeC, said the IT Summit was organized to help share knowledge and new ideas about economic development and technology. The summit featured numerous national and local speakers, panel sessions and vendor presentations and exhibits. Topics included grant writing and contract fund opportunities, current area economic development initiatives, quality of life issues, research park development and IT industry services and issues, among others.
Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, vice president/provost of Academic Affairs, said one of the University's focal points is how it can become a bigger player in economic development.
"We see a movement in our region towards increasing technology and to create opportunities for the area that we serve," he said.
Arévalo believes this effort can be achieved through the creation of research-based programs, and conferences such as the IT Summit.
"The constant that we are attempting to build is one of capacity building that will lead to increased research. Your involvement in this summit will yield new partnerships and new ideas."
Also attending the summit was Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who said the shared vision of business, education institutions and governmental agencies in South Texas would help create a "Silicon Rio."
"The IT Summit is part of a comprehensive effort to prepare South Texas to seize the initiative and become a key player in the global economy. This community has a wealth of talent, and we must mine it," he said. "UT Pan American has played a pivotal role in the comprehensive effort to prepare the region to lead the nation in economic growth and development for the 21st Century."
Delivering the keynote address May 28 was Daniel L. Winfield, director of Technology Applications at RTI International in North Carolina, an independent, nonprofit corporation with a distinguished history in scientific research and technology development.
Based on the findings of a 2001 study by Harvard economist Dr. Michael Porter entitled "Clusters of Innovation," the plan outlines a course of action to nurture the growth of industry clusters defined as interconnected businesses and support organizations in a specific industry.
Winfield described the importance of collaborative partnerships between business, academic and economic development entities and leaders as well as the need to establish a common vision across the region.
"Companies make decisions on where they want to locate based on a regional basis, they don't choose it on a city or county basis," he said.
He also pointed out the trend to knowledge and innovation based economic development over the traditional economic development based on factors such as resource availability or location.
"The emerging innovation economy is less about goods and services and more about intellectual capital and innovation capacity as captured in a region's human capital, research and technology innovations and ability to turn those innovations into new business opportunities through technology transfer and entrepreneurship," Winfield said.
He said it was important for the University to align its growth plans or prospects with those envisioned by the business community. To our advantage, Winfield said, is that the Hispanic community has always been entrepreneurial in nature.
"You need to find ways to support that within a technology concept. That will take a combination of incubators, some strategic research investment by the University and some education programs that are built around entrepreneurship," he said.
Summit attendee, Brian Godinez, owner of Godinez Ventures, a marketing and communications firm, said he was encouraged and excited about the event.
"I am encouraged that the University is taking a leadership role in wanting to foster a technology corridor or elevate the work force into more high technology job opportunities for business creation," he said.
Hoping it would be the first of an annual event, Godinez said, "I hope it will actually spawn some other micro meetings, events or networks that can come out of this that can continue to foster, promote and build specifically more action than just talk."
The IT Summit organizer, CITeC, was created as a UTPA academic unit in July 2002. Its mission is to advance knowledge and to support industry growth in all aspects of computing, information technology, engineering and telecommunication technologies, focusing on the Rio Grande Valley and Texas. CITeC's vision encompasses both education and research, with a focus on basic and applied research and development.
Additional sponsors providing financial support for the IT Summit were Course Technology and both the Edinburg and McAllen Economic Development Corporations.
For more information on IT Summit initiatives or CITeC, contact CITeC's Director of New Business Development Jacquelyn Michel at 956/292-7415 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.cs.panam.edu/~citec