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Visioning Forward
Thoughts from WSTA's president, Charles Keating

I was all set to write a blog post about Understanding Technology. As I began the fourth paragraph, writer’s block hit me straight between the eyes. Below is from a President’s Corner recently sent to the community by Charles Keating, president of West Sound Technology Association. It was worth sharing forward. I’ll get back to you on that other post…

Visioning Forward
by Charles Keating

As we look back on 2012, there is much to be grateful for. The holiday season and New Year are opportunities to re-evaluate our mission, progress towards goals, and future plans.

A week ago, we held our holiday celebration and visioning event at the Yonder Retreat Center. We are grateful the owners make this beautiful facility available to non-profit organizations like WSTA, just as we are for the contributions of current and past WSTA board and member volunteers since the inception of the association. Celebrating the holiday in a wonderful location with a beautiful view of Puget Sound and Seattle was a perfect setting to discuss our history and vision for future steps. I will now do the same with all of you, and welcome your participation.

WSTA began as WSTPA, or West Sound Technology Professionals Association, in 2000. It was in the aftermath of the dot-bomb, and there was a need for meetings and networking to connect businesses with local technology professionals.  Many members had been involved with then Kitsap Economic Development Council’s Regional Telecommunications Committee (KRTC) to bring improved broadband options to the region. WSTPA continued these efforts, and in 2001 the 501c3 was formalized with a charter which sets forth our primary mission in public education. We eventually offered paid memberships in order to fund our operations, and as such became a hybrid community and affinity group. In 2002, we held our first Western Washington Summit at Sons of Norway in Poulsbo. This event led to the inclusion of WSTPA as a Technology Alliance Associate, one of four organizations around the state promoting technology, entrepreneurship, and education policy in their respective regions.

Many of our early meetings introduced technologies and provided hands on resources. Topics included both technical and business applications. As broadband an online resources proliferated, attendance declined for those primarily seeking technical content. Similar user groups like ours suffered, and closed their doors.

Meanwhile, WSTPA expanded its mission because we knew technology was a tool which drove 21st century business and economic development interests. In 2008, we became West Sound Technology Association (WSTA) to reflect this vision. Our summits showcase policy and innovation intertwined with economic objectives, and Washington State mirrored this by merging its technology and economic development committees.

Over time, our membership has diversified and includes education, nonprofit, business, and government leaders, technology users, and technology professionals. This mix creates a unique value by connecting regional leaders with the technical community. At one time we had members from an eight county region. Our reach extends to the state and national level, and many partner organizations. Meeting topics continue to vary, and we’ve covered transportation, environment, housing, economic vitality, education and many others influence by advances in technology.

WSTA has weathered the downturn and many transitions. October’s annual summit had an innovation and leadership theme and was held at Kitsap Conference Center at Bremerton Harborside. One of our best events, we attracted a national speaker from Washington, D.C.: Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. We set the stage for Gary with local and national speakers such as retiring U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, Kitsap Economic Development Alliance executive director John Powers, Washington Economic Development Commission director Egils Milbergs, and newly elected U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer. This powerful lineup demonstrated how technology and innovation are married, locally developed at the core, and through collaborative partnerships can work up the chain to the worldwide economy. Many regions have something special, but ours is well placed with its workforce and entrepreneurial environment to make good things happen if we put forth the effort.

All of this has set the stage for the discussion about where WSTA is going. Some suggestions at our holiday retreat included offering technical “for-pay” resources, creating new membership tiers, offering fee based video meetings, professional development and continuing education opportunities, and partnering with businesses to host events which showcase technology in various industry sectors. These were not new ideas, but they demonstrated clearly what values are sought.

Upcoming 2013 meetings include a focus on server, medical, and evolving security technologies. We are planning an event on energy generation and efficiencies, and hosting a forum about education and workforce development. An annual survey will continue to gauge interests of the community. Still, there is much work to be done.

As was stressed in our holiday meeting, WSTA, beyond its history and past accomplishments, is moving forward and a reflection of members and volunteers. As a community resource, what we can accomplish is also determined by your participation. Everyone reading this email and interested in seeing a more resilient, technology and innovation focused economy has a stake in WSTA’s success.

Since 2001, thirty seven individuals have served on our executive board - with a shared commitment to create and drive a technology future for the West Puget Sound. Many served for a year or two, but some have remained for many years. Currently, our board is comprised of three members. To those who have served we thank you. To those who’ve expressed interest or are considering it, below are some of the many ways you can help:

  • Become an ambassador and help spread the word about WSTA to your friends and colleagues.
  • Serve on a WSTA working group to help with communications, outreach, hosting events, sponsorships, fundraising and other activities. Even if you can’t regularly attend, this is a valuable resource we can use.
  • Become a member or sponsor to support our mission financially. If you are already a business member or sponsor, let us know if there is something we can offer as a value-added benefit.
  • Work with us to host an industry topic meeting with a technology/business/education theme at your location.
  • When we survey, tell us how we are doing and what we can do together better.
  • And last but not least, we need individuals with leadership skills, vision, and a willingness to act to join our executive board.

Best wishes to all, and looking forward to a happy and prosperous 2013!

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