Asheville will, for the first time ever, have an unprecedented presence at SXSW, one of the hottest film, music and tech conferences in the U.S. It’s the latest in a series of moves by a group of AVL movers and shakers who continue to pitch Asheville as a haven for entrepreneurs.
The official Asheville contingent will set up a display and host a networking party during the super-hot event in Austin, which each year draws an amazing array of tech gurus, musical acts and independent films.
The last few years, the festival has placed a greater emphasis on investors and entrepreneurs. And that’s why Asheville wants to be there with such a strong presence. Economic development officials recognize that the future of the local economy lies in developing start-ups, supporting entrepreneurs and nourishing small business owners. Thus the full-court press.
Here’s the who’s-who representing Asheville in Austin:
Pam Lewis, director of entrepreneurship for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and local Economic Development Commission; Ben Teague, director of the EDC; Bradley Cain, on behalf of the EDC; Troy Tolley, co-founder of Digital Chalk; Marilyn McDonald, A-B Tech’s strategic business development officer and executive director of a foundation aimed at creating a new technology accelerator; Jonathan Feldman, IT director for the city of Asheville; and Trevor Lohrbeer, CEO of Lab Escape.
Sean O’Connell of Asheville-based Music Allies will also be at SXSW doing his music thing, but will surely have a presence at the Asheville party. Reporter Dale Neal of the Asheville Citizen-Times will be there to cover the local connection, as will Mountain Xpress arts and music reporter Alli Marshall. (Did I see also that Xpress food writer Mackensy Lunsford will be attending?)
The Asheville event is titled “adVenture Asheville” and will feature plenty of nods to the mountains. The group hopes to serve up a little moonshine from Troy & Sons Distillery and will have hammocks from Eagle’s Nest Outfitters out for people to lounge on, for example. There will also certainly be other food, photos and art on display from Asheville. The Asheville presence is being funded by an anonymous donor.
Again, the goal is to pitch Asheville as a great place for entrepreneurs to get a start. Will it work? Is Asheville ready to support the risk-takers when they get here?