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The Future's So Bright...

For all those who think the Midwest has no future…here comes FutureMidwest.

This April, Metro Detroit will play host to the region's largest two-day technology and knowledge conference focusing on digital media. Yes, we may be the Rust Belt, but we can Twitter with the best of them.

The idea for this brand new event is to help individuals and businesses figure out how to use Twitter, Facebook and any other of the latest online tools to their advantage. Technology has dramatically changed the way we do business, and organizers say they don't want the Midwest to lag behind.

“Long term, the goal is to turn it into a South by Southwest-style event for the Midwest region,” said Jordan Wolfe, one of the conference founders. In other words, it would become a place for creative people and companies to come together.

Wolfe adds, “Historically, Detroit has been a fountainhead of innovation and that is what brought us to becoming a global powerhourse. Currently, there is no other American city facing the same kind of strategic challenges and opportunities for innovation. This has been reinforced as companies such as Egg Strategy out of Boulder, Colorado, who's clients include Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, and Starbucks will be participating in FutureMidwest and who will be setting up shop in Detroit by March 2010.”

The event is coordinated by Wolfe, Adrian Pittman and Zach Lipson. All three have massive experience in this arena, and they have culled their Rolodexes..how 1980s of me…I mean…Outlooks to find the best and brightest minds in the area.

FutureMidwest also has one of the coolest mascots I've ever seen. It's a cow wearing a space helmet. Very appropriate for both what the Midwest represents (agriculture and traditional values) and the world beyond.

“It is going to be a mix of educational and entertainment over two days, focused on digital media, marketing, communications and entrepreneurship,” Wolfe said.

To that end, FutureMidwest plans to kick things up a notch with presentations, group breakout sessions, relationship-building opportunities and influencers who are taking action to redefine business in the digital age.

The Metro Detroit area has been widely criticized for letting our entrepreneurial spirit die (right alongside the automotive industry). Perhaps events like FutureMidwest can change that image. And there is no more important time to get everyone – including the automakers – on board.

Wolfe said they hit the jackpot when it comes to corporate sponsors: Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are both involved. (Hey, even the Old Guard at GM does a blog; check out Bob Lutz on the GM FastLane site.)

“This is really the first two-way communication between the ‘old boys' and the next generation,” Wolfe explained.

No, you don't have to be a savvy 20something digital native to attend. In fact, the goal is to draw out more seasoned executives, hoping their knowledge plus some new technology will give Michigan a greater leg up.

This is the first year for FutureMidwest, a blend of two successful conferences held in Michigan last year: TechNow and the Module Midwest Digital Conference, Wolfe said. Wolfe helped organize TechNow, which drew some 700 people. Module was equally successful.

The FutureMidwest conference will be held April 16 and 17 in Royal Oak, home to a “creative class” of residents, retail stores, inventive restaurants and innovative businesses.

During the Friday program, professionals with extensive digital, marketing and strategic backgrounds will teach participants how to add digital strategies into their marketing and business communication. Friday's evening program will be full of energy and entertainment for networking with professionals from a variety of industries and backgrounds.

Saturday's program will consist of interactive case studies on a variety of topics including branding, marketing, and strategy in the digital age. Speakers will then help attendees to apply what they learned during that day's sessions.

Some scheduled speakers include CEOs, SEO experts, Emmy-winning bloggers and more. There's Scott Monty, Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company. Or Ken Burbary, Head of the Digital Strategy and Social Media practice for Ernst & Young. And Samuel Valenti IV, Founder/CEO for Ghostly International.

Trust me -- they may not be household names now, but they probably will be, so better to get in on the ground floor.

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