To Charleston Digital Corridor founder Ernest Andrade, the increase in the number of technology and creative events in the Holy City is an all around good sign, “To me, the more, the better.”
It’s been a long time coming, but over the next few months, Charleston is set to play host to a number of ambitious technology and creative industry events targeted at attracting the best and the brightest of a growing sector that has been getting more and more attention over the past year.
In addition to the O’Reilly Media Mini Tools of Change and Ignite Charleston events in conjunction with the Charleston Conference this week (for more on that, see Stratton Lawrence’s feature), Barcamp Charleston, Dig South, and TEDxMarionSquare are prepping shows of their own, each drawing on the growing technology industry that’s put down roots in our city.
Listing off the recent superlatives Charleston has earned, Andrade says, “Everyone knows about the rankings, but these events serve to showcase companies driving innovation” in the city, which FastCompany notoriously called the “Silicon Harbor” over the summer, taking note of the big footprints of Amazon, Boeing, and Google, all relatively recent additions to the Lowcountry landscape.
In addition to the big boys and Daniel Island O.G.’s BenefitFocus and Blackbaud, companies newer to the scene like PeopleMatter, SPARC, and BoomTown and dozens of smaller shops have brought thousands of technology jobs to the area in the past few years. A new Digital Corridor study shows average wages for ‘knowledge-based economy’ jobs are 1.64 times median regional incomes, with nearly three-quarters of companies reporting plans to expand by year’s end.
BarCamp Charleston chief planner Adrian Nida says support for the fourth-annual ‘unconference,’ where the event’s flexible format isn’t determined until it kicks off on Saturday at C of C, has only grown and attracted more interest each year. Expected to draw more than 200 attendees, Nida says he expects sessions to span the gamut from traditional geek fare like Arduino microcontroller programming to more wonkish topics like the I-526 completion. To sign-up for BarCamp Charleston, visit BarCampCHS.org.
Andrade takes pride in looking forward to these programs giving engineers, developers, and researchers the opportunity to meet with area tech companies “against the beautiful backdrop of Charleston.”
That landscape is exactly what Dig South organizer Stanfield Grey is hoping to capitalize off of as he launches a Kickstarter campaign for the first annual festival, which features an impressive speakers list, live entertainment, and expo open to the public. Grey, who is also the director of strategic communications at the College of Charleston and an avid musician, says Dig South’s agenda focuses on four areas: technology, marketing, social media, and the arts. Tickets for Dig South, which runs April 12-14th, are currently available for pre-sale at digsouth.com.
Just as pounding piledrivers and crowded street corners show the area on the rebound from the recession, Andrade is excited for the prospects for the area’s technology sector, “we’ve emerged from the recession with a strong, growing tech economy that’s becoming more and more a part of peoples’ everyday mindset in Charleston.”
Not to be outdone by our sister city to the south, Savannah, which hosts its nationally prominent “Geekend” this weekend, BarCamp organizer Nida says he’s teamed up with the O’Reilly and Ignite organizers to dub this week Charleston’s “Geek Week.”