Southland Conference is buzzworthy

Here’s┬ásome good news, according to Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the state Dept. of Economic and Community Development: Tennessee ranks first in the Southeast and fourth in the nation in job creation in the manufacturing sector.

That’s fantastic, but more can be achieved and Hagerty and Gov. Bill Haslam would like to see similar success in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. That was Hagerty’s contention as he opened up the inaugural Southland conference at The Cannery Ballroom in Downtown Nashville on Wednesday morning.

“The governor recognizes teh value of entrepreneurship in our state and in the Southeast,” Hagerty told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 entrepreneurs and investors from 11 states. “We want to compress the time it takes entprepreneurs to bring their innovations to market.”

If this week’s conference is an indicator, then Haslam and Hagerty are on the right track.

As Memphian Sarah Lacy commented after her kickoff interview with ODESK founder Gary Swart, “I was a little concerned that this might be a pro-Nashville event and that there wouldn’t be as much of a push to include Memphis or the rest of Tennessee or even the region. I’m pleasantly surprised and encouraged to find out that’s not the case. There seems to be a real effort here to collaborate.”

Judging by the folks I’ve talked to here in the last couple days, there’s a buzz surrounding this conference and people are excited to promote and support startups in our community and those elsewhere. There’s a great sense of connectivity here – except for my earlier problems with the WiFi – and the mostly young-to-middle-aged crowd seems eager to learn as much about their fellow participants as to pitch their own companies.

I’ll check out some of the entrepreneurial activity in Startup Village and later I’ll post a link to an exclusive video conversation with PandoDaily founder and native Memphian Sarah Lacy.

Stay tuned.

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