EconAlliance Future Forum Featured Panel on Artificial Intelligence, a Presentation on Broadband and the Annual Northern Santa Barbara County Innovation Awards
Nearly one hundred and fifty Northern Santa Barbara County economic stakeholders gathered in Solvang Thursday, November 9th for the EconAlliance annual dinner and Future Forum. Key program element was a panel discussion: “Artificial Intelligence – For Better or For Worse?”, moderated by Steve Burgess, president of the Palo Alto Foresight Institute and principal of the locally- headquartered Burgess Forensics firm. Discussion centered around the pros and cons to business, society and the individual of emerging AI technology. Panelists included Dr. Terence Yeoh, Team Lead for The Aerospace Corporation’s entry into the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition. Dr. Yeoh is an Assistant Principal Director at The Aerospace Corporation. Paul Cook, CIO for CoastHills Credit Union, was a panelist, as was Dr. Ryan Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow, Ethics & Emerging Sciences Group, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Tim Williams, CEO of Digital West, gave a presentation on “Broadband – State of the Art Globally, Locally”, pointing out that the U.S. is far behind many third world countries in fiber infrastructure, and that the California broadband gap is not technological, but political.
Highlight of the evening was the presentation by EconAlliance of its annual Santa Barbara County Innovation Awards. According to EconAlliance Board President Steve Pepe, “The Innovation Awards are meant to foster positive attention and appreciation for those organizations stepping out to revolutionize, improve and/or enhance their products, services or program offerings.”
Innovation Committee Chair Ben Oakley, the rules of entry are fairly straight-forward:
innovation applications must show a strong Northern Santa Barbara County connection and impact and feature innovation and value in a device, a process, an app, a concept, a program or in operations.
This year’s EconAlliance Innovation Awards went to Mob Armor (technology) and to Allan Hancock College (education).
Created to fill a unique market need, Mob Armor products are produced in Santa Maria by Solve It Companies. Mob Armor’s smartphone and tablet products feature an innovative approach to securing mobile devices in UTV’s, daily drivers, race trucks, fleet and emergency service vehicles. Mob Armor customers include extreme sports advocates, the adventure market, first responders, and others interested in hardy, robust design and manufactured smartphone and tablet accessories critical in extreme environments. Accepting the award for Mob Armor were Solve It Companies Vice President of Sales Trevor Orrick and Lead Engineer Joel Hitchens.
Allan Hancock College received the Innovation Award for education in honor of its new “Allan Hancock College Promise Program” unveiled this past August. The comprehensive Promise Program is designed to transform lives by placing higher education in reach of everyone. Starting in fall of 2018, every student who graduates from a high school within the boundaries of the AHC Community College District will receive one year of free tuition and fees (a $1200 savings). While other community colleges in California have instituted similar programs, Hancock is the only college to establish a four-phased program beginning with activities for 5th graders and their parents. AHC is partnering with Aera Energy and others to showcase various career options available to students and help them “dream big” as to what their career path might look like. Kevin Walthers, AHC Superintendent/President, accepted the Innovation Award on behalf of Allan Hancock College.
EconAlliance is a 501c3 nonprofit founded to celebrate and sustain key Northern Santa Barbara County growth industries and to support the economic vitality of North County communities. Its mission is to “create a high performance, globally competitive regional economy”. It addresses this through a variety of initiatives, both industry (Ag, Energy, Wine/Tourism, etc.) and support (Education/Workforce, Global Trade, Innovation/Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure, etc.). EconAlliance drives cross-industry, cross-sector, cross-jurisdictional education and cooperation and inspires leading edge thinking and innovation in the region.