CONNECT 2016: Heart of the Start

More than 300 attendees are expected at The Colony Mill for an event focusing on the region’s innovation and companies that started here.
With just a little more than a week to go, more than 200 tickets have been sold to Connect 2016: Heart of the Start!, taking place beginning at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, the Business Journal of Greater Keene, Brattleboro and Peterborough and The Keene Sentinel have partnered on the event, which is being staged by Machina Arts, a local events company.
The goal of CONNECT is to bring together those enthusiastic about entrepreneurship, innovation and startups by showcasing businesses and business people who have found success getting their businesses off the ground in this region.
Organizers hope that the event will foster discussions and idea-exchange around some of the following questions:
What can boost this region as an innovation hub?
What unique features about this region’s business climate or resources can be highlighted and built upon?
What can be learned from those who got their start here and have found, in many cases, national success?
The setting for CONNECT is unique. Attendees can network in a space that will be innovative in design, décor and lighting by local company Lumens for Less. Sip a local brew, relax on inflatable couches, tour installations that showcase innovative manufacturing, services and products. Machina Arts is transforming the mill space into a display that pays tribute to the history of this region while showcasing what’s possible, say organizers.
“Machina Arts focuses on creating experiences, instances in which the event is the art,” said Rebecca Hamilton, one of the two owners of Machina Arts. “When people walk in the door, attendees should feel the power of innovation around them.”
Hamilton says the installations to be revealed are imbued with energy and are intended to spark inspiration in viewers. Hamilton hopes that event-goers can gain an understanding of what can be done in a “small, hip community.”
“Usually we think of innovation as restricted to cities, but with the technology and global outreach of today, we may come to realize that it is all around us,” she said.
Among many installations to be on display include an interactive floating granite sphere from ABTech; live artist haircutting by The Barbery; a 3D printer creating mosaic tiles; designer “bathtub” furniture from Khameleon Koatings; a hand-built motorcycle by Walt Siegl; an infrared photo booth by Stingray Optics; and a revolutionary drinking water dispenser by Filtrine Manufacturing Co.
Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director of the Hannah Grimes Center, says the event should truly live up to its purposes. Her excitement, she says, stems in part from Filtrine’s project, which will become a permanent fixture in downtown Keene. The water fountain will fit seamlessly into the historic downtown and has required collaboration from artists, designers, and Filtrine for completion, she says.
“It is not just about the brainstorming and ideas that will arise out of the evening,” Kristiansen said, “To have a commercially viable product that was sparked by this event exemplifies exactly what Connect 2016 is about.”
The keynote speaker is Michael Knapp, CEO of Green River, a Brattleboro software company. He will talk about his company’s work using data and analytics to solve large, global-scale social issues.
Green River works to analyze and present data in ways to have an impact on societal structures, politics and business strategies. The company has been used in education, health care, supply chain management and on societal issues involving the environment protection and homelessness.
The company is perhaps best known for its collaboration with Starbucks to promote ethical sourcing, growing and harvesting of coffee beans. After years of combined efforts, Green River has developed a software platform that now certifies all Starbucks coffee, growers, harvesters and manufactured goods.
Knapp also has a hand in the “Ecovation Hub” in Southern Vermont. The Hub was formed in conjunction with the closing of the Vermont Yankee Power Plant. He said he believes that considering social impact needs to be a meaningful part of business thinking. In today’s economy, he says, it is this mindset that will drive businesses success.
“Our community stands out as having the building blocks for modern progress, which, if tended to, can be made into concrete success stories,” Knapp said. “It’s about gathering our strong forces (businesses, innovators and individuals concerned about the environment) and supporting them and connecting them to one another.”
Terrence Williams, president and chief operating officer at the Keene Sentinel, sees the importance of providing examples, sharing stories, and illustrating the benefits of healthy businesses in the local community. He said he hopes, “informative blue prints for success can be made and shared that other businesses can follow.”
“We are very excited about the Connect event and how it will showcase local innovation and demonstrate the amazing thinking and creativity that this region’s business community offers,” Williams said. “We realize the event is just one evening, but we hope that a celebration of this energy and ingenuity will tell the story more thoroughly of just what’s possible here.”
Other aspects of the evening include recognizing four local business for success in the arenas of: product — StingRay Optics; business philosophy — W.S. Badger; service — True North Networks; and logistics — Bensonwood. Amanda Littleton of Monadnock Menus will be recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Business Journal will hand out a special 80-page issue of the magazine that evening.
For ticket information, go to https://www.hannahgrimes.com/connect/ and for additional information, contact the Hannah Grimes Center at 603-352-5063.

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