Columbus education and economic leaders consider the need for employees with high-tech skills to be vital to the community’s future success.

When touring local facilities, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Frey said she sees high-tech machines that integrate artificial intelligence, robotics and data science, for example, into the manufacturing process.

Workers with the technological skills to operate the machines are in demand, she said.

“The communities that have the personnel with those skills are the places that will see a lot of innovation and business growth,” Frey said.

That thought is likely to be echoed and expanded upon when Scott Dorsey gives the keynote speech at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting March 1 at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center.

Dorsey is managing partner of Indianapolis-based High Alpha, a venture studio. The company’s website describes the studio as a new model for entrepreneurship that unites company building and venture capital.

Previously, Dorsey co-founded ExactTarget, a company that produced an email marketing software. ExactTarget went public in 2012 and was purchased by Salesforce.com in 2013 for $2.5 billion.

Frey said she learned of Dorsey when she worked at the Columbus Area Visitors Center, which used ExactTarget’s software. Frey said she has followed Dorsey’s career and even attended his national conference.

“He’s identified as one of the tech entrepreneurs in Indiana, and an evangelist for workforce development — and making sure we’re teaching people how to work in the technology field,” Frey said.

Frey said Dorsey has been asked to speak specifically about artificial intelligence, data science, robotics, machine learning, and how these and other technologies impact the way businesses operate.

“We know we need to grow talent with expertise in autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity, embedded controls and analytics. We see an opportunity for southern Indiana to be a leader in these sectors,” Frey said. “We know our education system will be too slow to meet the demand for these skills without a unified vision as well as significant private and philanthropic investment.”

To help address the community’s high-tech needs, the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition is in the middle of a regional information technology workforce needs assessment.

“Technology is reinventing the way we work,” Frey said.

If you go

What: Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s 108th annual meeting

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 1

Where: Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, 2480 W. Jonathan Moore Pike, Columbus.

Keynote speaker: Scott Dorsey, managing partner at High Alpha, a venture capital studio in Indianapolis, and co-founder of ExactTarget.

Other business:

  • Review Chamber’s 2016 highlights and discuss future plans
  • Announce winners of the Maverick Challenge
  • Announce Company of the Year, Community Initiative, Community Service and Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teacher award winners

Cost: $50 per chamber member, $55 per non-member

To register online: columbusarea.chambermaster.com/events/details/chamber-annual-meeting-2017-1526

Information: 812-379-4457

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.