St. Louis launches inaugural Tech Week to highlight region’s vast innovation scene
St. Louis’ inaugural Tech Week kicks off Monday morning with a collection of panels, tours, demonstrations, meetups and other events designed to highlight the region’s numerous technology related industries.
Organizers see it as a prime opportunity to widely telegraph the depth of the St. Louis region’s tech and innovation scene.
“The data economy cuts across everything,” said Emily Hemingway, executive director of Tech STL, one of Tech Week’s main organizers. “The opportunity for us is allowing our disruptors, creatives, innovators to take to the streets and tell this story about all the great stuff that’s happening in St. Louis.”
Over the next five days, her organization estimates as many as 5,000 people will attend more than 40 events planned at dozens of venues in both Missouri and Illinois. They cover sectors regional leaders have been vocal about in recent years, like ag tech and geospatial, as well as ones that Hemingway said are up and coming, like extended reality and robotics.
The most important aspect of the week’s events to Hemingway is that they don’t cost anything to attend, though some panels and meetups are already sold out of virtual tickets.
“That was such a big priority for us,” Hemingway said. “The reason you host tech week is to activate the community, it’s to open the doors and let anyone who feels like they would benefit from being in the room, let them in the room.”
The weeklong event also serves as a way to visibly connect people and innovation happening across different sectors that rely on technology and data, said Bob Olwig, who leads global partner alliances for World Wide Technology.
“I don’t know if we always come together and share in our experiences,” Olwig said. “There’s a little bit of, we just don’t know what we have in St. Louis.”
Tech Week offers a chance to change that, especially for a key sector regional leaders want to see grow in the next decade, said Jason Hall, Greater St. Louis Inc. CEO.
“Right now is a critical inflection point for us to highlight what we’re doing and what our strategy is to succeed moving forward,” he said. “Coming out of the pandemic, we are one of the few metro areas in the country with a real plan to drive growth in tech and other industries.”
It comes at a time when the region needs more tech workers. Hemingway’s organization estimates there are more than 38,000 tech job openings that aren’t being filled.
“We need to in essence, double the tech workforce,” she said. “We don’t have enough people who are going through the tech training pipeline in order to fill these jobs.”
The openings aren’t just with major tech players either, Olwig said.
“Every business is becoming a technology business,” he said. “The need for technologists and programmers and engineers and architects, it’s only increasing over time.”
Events like Tech Week bring more attention to the openings available, which may not be as visible as they need to be for those living in the St. Louis region or beyond, Olwig added.
Hemingway said the region is ready to be a leader in the tech space, especially since this week’s event is three times larger than organizers were initially anticipating. Her organization intends to continue this momentum, she said.
“If we aren’t talking about it, if we aren’t celebrating it, people won’t know,” she said.