It is hard to believe three years has passed since my family made the move from Seattle, Washington to the Savannah Metro Area (Okatie, South Carolina to be precise). The size of my children makes it easier to recognize the passage of time, and the addition of two more bundles of joy and nerve endings.
Our first son made me hang up my frequent flyer cards, and replace airport lounges with the cramped quarters of back offices overflowing with mountains of paperwork at area small businesses. No longer would my aim be to create partnerships between multinational organizations and high profile figures while facilitating major deals; my job was to help Mom and Pop make their businesses grow. And that was ok.
My longing for the larger, global economy, and being a change agent could not be quelled however. So, in earnest, I began looking in every direction for a more growth-driven environment. While I have no qualms with the tourism industry, anyone who knows me will have heard me say “Dubai learned the hard way that a transient culture and tourism industry is not enough to sustain a scaled economy, and so will others.” In a global economic meltdown, it was big brother Abu Dhabi, a tried and true multi-industry, quiet, dare I say boring, Middle Eastern juggernaut that bailed them out.
During the “Great Recession” our region faltered. Everyone began to look around, saying, “What do we do?” “How do we cultivate innovation?” “How do we create businesses that will employ hundreds of people?” “How do we diversify our economy?” It was during this time that groups like The Creative Coast and Geekend came into their own, with widespread support.
With this backdrop, after my move, I looked for like-minded individuals who were interested in innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and long-term solutions. After no small amount of searching for local organizations that foster and cultivate such communities, I was, dare I say, disappointed in what I found. Or didn’t find.
Sad to say, but over the past few years, the general economic recovery has led most people to forget about the impetus on local and regional development, talent and the need for “high-paying jobs” to flow into the area. Alas, in my estimation, history may be doomed to repeat itself.
I’ve seen too many local leaders be content with improvements which are, compared to national averages and general recovery statistics, average at best. A rebound in the tourism industry and local construction means most people no longer consider how much they were hurting when tourism and brick-and-mortar development slowed, no longer so keen to “solve a problem.” Short term thinking, and a short memory.
Then I met The Creative Coast. I was impressed. I heard about Geekend and I was more impressed. I said to myself, then to others, “this is something I can support.”
Being truthful, not all the Geekend speakers of the past appealed to me. But the sum of its parts was great. And the bones were fantastic. If I was hoping to make Geekend better, it would behoove me to make a few calls and invite some others to take part. And so I did. With more strategic partnerships, like ATDC, this year promises to be the best Geekend yet.
By the way, my employees got involved too, at my encouragement. They donated time, attended planning sessions, volunteered at the event, and made a few presentations. They learned, they grew, and so did my organization.
Geekend is a positive economic driver for our area, and it has the potential to help put Savannah, as well as Hilton Head, Bluffton, Ridgeland, and Hardeeville, on the map in a way that can attract real, sustainable, growth. We’re all part of the Savannah Metro area so the more we pull together on initiatives such as Geekend, the more everyone benefits.