People are in the midst of a time when technology is changing quickly, creating jobs and impacting people’s lives in many ways. The challenge, a renowned tech entrepreneur said, is for communities and companies to provide the skills and resources needed to keep up.

“We are living in an innovation economy,” said Scott Dorsey, managing partner of Indianapolis-based High Alpha, a venture studio focused on conceiving, launching and scaling next-generation enterprise cloud companies.

Dorsey, who previously co-founded ExactTarget, an Indiana global marketing software leader purchased by Salesforce.com in 2013 for $2.5 billion, was the keynote speaker at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s 108th annual meeting Wednesday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

Dorsey cited another tech company’s success to illustrate how quickly technology can have an impact.

Snap Inc., a technology and social media company that has among its products the popular Snapchat app, started in 2011. Today, the company is going public on the stock market, with an expected valuation of about $20 billion, Dorsey said.

He also noted that the five most valuable public companies are all in the technology field: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Apple is valued at about $690 billion and provided 116,000 jobs, according to data Dorsey presented.

The impact of technology, Dorsey said, can be seen in various forms:

Artificial intelligence (AI): It’s when machines mimic cognitive functions that humans associate with other humans, such as learning and problem solving. Amazon’s Alexa and autonomous vehicles are two examples. He said $3 billion was invested in AI companies in 2015, and $5 billion in 2016. “This revolution is just beginning,” Dorsey said.

Virtual reality (VR): This technology uses software to generate realistic images and sounds that simulates real environments. Virtual reality headsets are an example. Dorsey noted that 12 million VR headsets were sold in 2016, and a projected 300 million will be sold in 2020. Other early uses of the technology are real estate, manufacturing, medicine and design.

Augmented reality (AR): It’s a live, physical real-world view of an environment augmented by sound, videos or graphics. Ski goggles, enterprise applications and firefighter helmets are some examples, Dorsey said.

The Internet of things: “So many of the devices in our day-to-day lives, homes and businesses are interconnected,” Dorsey said. Apple watches and Fitbits are examples. Dorsey cited a statistic that 34 billion connected devices will exist on Earth by 2020, more than four times the planet’s population.

Mobile technologies: Smartphones are a prime example, Dorsey said.

The proliferation of technologies and related companies represent a generational shift led by millennials — people in their 20s and early 30s, Dorsey said.

“Millennials now represent the largest composition of the workforce today,” Dorsey said.

Technology matters to millennials, he said, citing a study that found technology influences the job choices of millennials.

Computer science education is imperative to the future of companies, Dorsey said.

“Every company is quickly becoming a tech company. We need workforce development, we need our young people, our young students, to have every opportunity to learn about not only how to use technology, but how technology is built,” Dorsey said.

He noted that across Indiana, only 25 percent of high schools teach computer science.

While a greater emphasis on education related to technology is needed, so are more resources to provide scale-up capital to entrepreneurs, Dorsey said. Start-up capital aids the start of a business, but scale-up capital helps a company achieve additional growth after experiencing some success. That’s lacking in Indiana, he said.

Dorsey’s speech made it clear that technology is changing people’s lives and doing so quickly, and has a great implication on the nation’s workforce, said Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The piece I heard was just how much we need to emphasize coding in our education, in our curriculum, and we’ve got to get going really quickly,” Frey said.

She also that said based on people she’s met in her chamber role, a lot of good entrepreneurial ideas exist locally, as well as opportunities to help them launch.

Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp., said Dorsey’s speech served as a reminder that all businesses need to embrace technology because of the demand for it by today’s workforce.

“They want to have the latest technology. It’s become an increasing expectation, and a reason perhaps that a good employee might leave a job,” Hester said.

Meeting highlights

Highlights shared by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce at its 108th annual meeting Wednesday:

  • About 500 people attended the meeting.
  • About 90 percent of the Columbus chember’s members renew their memberships, ranking it among the top 25 percent of chambers nationally.
  • The chamber partnered with 11 organizations to deliver computer coding classes for students in kindergarten through adults, with 1,600 students participating. It also launched a coding club that meets monthly at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Award winners

Here are winners of annual awards presented Wednesday at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s 108th annual meeting.

MAVERICK CHALLENEGE

First place: Zachary Schiavello, for his business idea, University Billing Solutions. Received $1,500 and will represent Bartholomew County in a regional competition against six other counties.

Second place: Natalie Teo, for her food truck concept, Soup ‘er Cheese. Received $1,000.

Best designed presentation: Riya Jain, for her company idea, Patisserie. Received $500.

COMPANY OF THE YEAR

Grammer Industries, founded by Charles “Shorty” Whittington, started as his family’s grain elevator, but turned into a trucking business that eventually focused on hauling hazardous materials. The company doubled in size from 2007 to 2011 during the country’s economic downturn. It’s now one of the leading hazardous-materials trucking companies in the United States, hauling, for example, anhydrous ammonia. Grammer Industries is known for its family atmosphere, with many long-serving drivers. Whittington’s company also built its own biodiesel fuel facility.

COMMUNITY INITIATIVE

Brighter Days Housing, the homeless shelter created from a partnership between Columbus Township Trustee Ben Jackson and Elizabeth Kestler, executive director of Love Chapel and the Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches. Shelter is located at 421 S. Mapleton St. in Columbus, and can hold as many as 20 men and 16 women. Besides receiving shelter, individuals also receive help from case managers, who assist them in finding housing and rebuilding their lives. The shelter was once Columbus Township’s firetruck maintenance facility until it was transformed — at a much lower cost than expected — with the help of many volunteers.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Tom Harmon, CEO of Taylor Brothers and Harmon Steel, vice president of Harmon Construction, began raising money for local families in need during the 1990s, an effort that expanded into a year-round nonprofit called the Joy of Giving, which has donated more than $500,000 to programs. He helped establish the African American Fund of Bartholomew County, which aims to educate and inspire blacks in Bartholomew County through five key initiatives: education, leadership development, economic and career development, health awareness, arts and cultural awareness. Has served in leadership and advisory roles for Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Association, Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation and IUPUC, among others.

EDNA V. FOLGER OUTSTANDING TEACHER

Kristen Chitty, teacher at Columbus Signature Academy – Fodrea Campus, was described as a relationship builder and a collaborator. She developed creative strategies to address the academic needs of her students who receive special education services, with 95 to 100 percent of them passing state assessments. A parent said Chitty’s research of cutting-edge instructional practices for students with dyslexia helped their son become a confident reader and honor roll student. She coaches the school’s Math Bowl team, and teaches college courses and volunteers at Love Chapel.

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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.