Aerospace, techy conferences a leading indicator?
Last week in this space, I remarked, once again, on the recent rise of the Charleston area’s aerospace and information technology industries and what it augurs for the future of the Lowcountry.
Some thought I overstated the point, arguing Charleston is a far cry from an aerospace and tech hub like the Puget Sound, home to Boeing’s manufacturing center and Microsoft’s and Amazon’s headquarters. Fair enough. Charleston’s still small and Old South. No one would dispute this town’s way behind Austin, never mind Seattle. But it’s the trends that intrigue, that matter.
So consider the latest evidence: a pair of new conferences coming to Charleston this week that wouldn’t have made sense five years ago but seem completely natural now.
The first, starting tomorrow at Charleston Place, is the SpeedNews Aerospace Manufacturing Conference, the sixth in the aviation publication’s line of industry get-togethers.
Featuring Gov. Nikki Haley and the boss of the North Charleston Boeing plant among executives from aerospace suppliers, the discussion will concern everything from logistics and automation to composites and other cutting-edge materials.
Wednesday is reserved for tours of what some are calling the Boeing Corridor, the string of aerospace factories along Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston. Some of the corporate visitors will surely be weighing whether it makes sense to establish a permanent presence here.
And then on Friday evening, the DIG SOUTH Interactive Festival takes the torch, playing host to hundreds of out-of-towners and locals who want to talk technology, arts and where they intersect.
Saturday and Sunday are the meat of the fest, when national tech execs and creative types will mix with their Charleston counterparts for panel discussions at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.
And as DIG SOUTH is modeled on the South By Southwest conference held in Austin every spring, there will also be concerts and social gatherings around town.
Veteran College of Charleston promoter Stanfield Gray is aiming very high for the first year of his wide-ranging festival, but he’s managed to both bring most of the major players in Charleston (and many from “off”) on board as sponsors and sell more than 2,300 tickets as of Friday.
Only time will tell whether a horde of aerospace suppliers eventually set up shop near Boeing or whether thousands show up this to celebrate Charleston as a so-called Silicon Harbor. But there’s a movement afoot here, and it’s onward and upward.
Note: An abbreviated version of this column previously appeared online.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_ brendan.