Madison might not be considered a hippie haven anymore, but Jim Remsik envisions a technology-oriented future for the city.
Remsik, who is a local software developer and technical reviewer, as well as the founder of Madison Ruby Conference, sees a need for building networking opportunities for Madison tech entrepreneurs.
Each year, Remsik plays a part in the Forward Technology Festival, organizing the concurrent Madison Ruby Conference and the affiliated Hype Harvest and KidsCodeCamp events.
"The idea behind Forward Technology Festival is to build an environment where you can bring people together," he says. "There's just an expectation that if you're around this town there should be a lot of things happening, and there will be plenty of ways to really get involved."
Remsik sees the festival and conference as instrumental in helping workers and business owners alike. They provide students and young adults an opportunity to collaborate and network, while local companies can reach out to a broader international business community. Both combine to help develop a technology sector for Madison.
"The festival itself is sort of a tapestry that sews together a bunch of individual events," Remsik says.
Forward Technology Festival started Thursday, Aug. 15 and continues through Saturday, Aug. 24. Now in its third year, it features a variety of local businesses and organizations across nearly two dozen different events.
"I was traveling all over the United States and Europe and I'd go to [conferences]," Remsik says. "I thought that if we just got a chance to get these people to Madison, they would love it and hopefully relocate here."
Although the Festival highlights programming, design and technological innovation, Remsik says it is also designed to "show the energy of the town," with attendees exposed to speakers from every background.
"The festival as well as the conference try and showcase what Madison has to offer," Remsik says. "Our whole point is to show off what we've got going on locally."
Remsik says that the Forward Technology Festival may be able to help bridge the gap between a shrinking job market and an increasingly educated workforce.
"We have a world-class university here, with all these really smart people who spend time here and love the city, but there are no jobs for them," Remsik says. "Manufacturing jobs are going away, and they need to be replaced with something."
Remsik sees Madison as having an auspicious environment for creative innovation in technology-driven businesses.
"Madison can compete with Portland and Austin. They're sort of peer cities. It's already starting to happen," he says. "I think in 10 years there's a good chance that people will think of Madison as a techni-creative hub like they think of Austin today."