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BOONE, NC – A pair of keynote presenters and 12 breakout panel participants highlight the agenda for the 5th annual Vision Northwest North Carolina summit. The event takes place Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute's Watauga Campus in Boone. This year's focus centers on AI and Technology Solutions for Northwest North Carolina. 

Vision Northwest North Carolina brings together thought leaders from across the region to discuss current economic development trends impacting businesses, agencies, and communities. This year's event features conversation and best practices to how AI and technology can be used for good throughout the region. Keynote presenters and breakout panels are designed to feature emerging trends and attainable best practices that can help businesses find success through efficiency and help individuals thrive in a tech-forward culture. 

SkyLine/SkyBest and Carolina West Wireless return as the lead sponsors of the event. Tickets cost $95, and include event materials, networking opportunities, breakfast, lunch, post-event reception, and recordings of all sessions. Online registration is available at  

This year’s keynote sessions include:  

Crafting an AI-Native Business: Essential Skills for the New Frontier – Zack Giglio, GCM
Zack will identify the skills that are becoming increasingly important across all roles due to the influence of AI and how businesses can adjust their hiring practices to incorporate these essential skills. He’ll then guide attendees on how to enhance their own skill sets to become more effective and attractive to employers in this new work environment. Finally, Zack will demonstrate how taking these steps enables small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to reap the benefits of implementing AI, such as increased innovation and better performance. 

The Impact of AI: From Resumes to Revolutions – Cyrus Hurley, Zyruc 

There are many practical uses for AI that can positively impact businesses, but the bad guys have AI too. Cyrus dives into some of the everyday processes and tools that can make businesses more efficient and free employees for expanded tasks. He'll also discuss cybersecurity and other threats, and how to make sure your policies and practices are limiting your risk for business disruption.  

The morning breakout session features: 

  • The Impact of AI & Technology on Workforce Readiness - As we consider the impact of AI and technology on the modern workplace, how do we ensure staff are trained to fully harness these new tools? Hear from local education and workforce leaders about how technical adaptation and skill development is being prioritized in the classroom and on the job site. 
    • Lane Freeman, Director of Online Learning, NC Community College System 
    • Rick Shew, Associate Dean Business & Career Services, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute 
    • Lucas Underwood, Owner, L&N Performance Automotive Repair 
  • Is it Time for a CTO? - Who knows how this stuff works? It's often the last question asked by managers who order new gear without thinking about who maintains the new investment. As your business adapts to today's trends, are you building a culture of technical knowledge and compliance within your operation?  
    • Gary Daemer, President, Infusion Points 
    • Tanner Greer, Sr. Vice President/Chief Technical Officer, Blue Ridge Energy 
  • Technology Wins in Northwest North Carolina - Many businesses and agencies are already winning with AI and other technology advancements. Hear success stories from within our region and learn about how your next project can gain motivation from the work of peer businesses in Northwest North Carolina.   
    • Caroline Catoe, President, ECRS 
    • Greg Coplin, Director of Information Technology, Catawba Valley Health System 

The afternoon breakout sessions include: 

  • Ethical Concerns of AI - We know that AI and technology can provide many positive benefits, but how do we avoid crossing the line? Learn how businesses and leaders can remain authentic as you strive for improvement.  
    • Kelli Burgin, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity, Montreat College 
    • Meghan Willis, Assistant General Counsil, Appalachian State University 
  • Today's Tools for Tomorrow's Workforce - You don't have to leave Northwest North Carolina to find companies that are developing the next round of revolutionary tools. See examples of technical innovation from our own backyard, and learn how businesses are solving for tomorrow's challenges. 
    • Mike Gaddy, Sales Manager, Technology Division, WJ Office 
    • Dianna Hudson, National Technology Consultant, Automated Systems Desings, Inc 
  • Improving Business & Empowering Employees with AI - While AI and technology have their benefits, many businesses are still trying to understand the potential impact on their bottom line. Hear how local businesses are enhancing profit and retaining talent by implementing these new strategies. 
    • Chris Beckwith-Taylor, Founder/Chief Strategist, GREENstick 

Additional panelists may be added to sessions prior to the event. Check for an updated event agenda. 

“We started Vision Northwest North Carolina back in 2019 to facilitate timely economic development discussion on a regional level. There is no more relevant topic than the impact of AI and technology on our local business communities,” said David Jackson, President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “This year’s agenda is designed to provide more understanding of AI applications for small businesses, how businesses can protect themselves from bad actors in this space, and how local education leaders can play a part in growing a workforce that is responsive to changes that are occurring in the world of technology around us. Like in years past, we hope this conversation not only serves as a starting point for deeper discovery, but also highlights some of the exciting things that are already occurring in these areas throughout our region.” 

Vision Northwest North Carolina is organized through a collaborative regional partnership that includes the Boone Area, Blowing Rock, Alleghany, and Ashe County Chambers of Commerce, Watauga County Economic Development Commission, Appalachian State University Career Development Center, High Country Council of Governments, High Country Workforce Development Board, and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and other organizations throughout the region. 

Additional event support comes from Beech Mountain Resort, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, DMJPS, First Horizon, WJ Office, and Lifestore Bank.