Information technology professionals, economic developers, educators and economic development experts will congregate in Southside April 18-19 for IRCNAT 2005: Impacting Rural Communities through New Age Technologies. IRCNAT is the first annual information technology conference hosted by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. Several major speakers have been confirmed for the program, which will feature lectures and panel discussions on a number of themes.

Jim Clinton serves as executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, a North Carolina-based think tank providing public policy expertise to thirteen Southern states and Puerto Rico. Clinton will be delivering the April 18 morning keynote address, "Technology and the American Economy." He will discuss the current macro-economic environment, including the transition from low-skill manufacturing and agriculture to the innovation-based economy in rural communities, highlighting the importance of technology in economic development.

Kent Murphy, CEO of Luna Innovations, Inc. will discuss the subject "Building High Technology Businesses in Rural Communities." Murphy will address the process of technology commercialization and the challenges facing entrepreneurs who seek to build their businesses in rural communities.

Leading discussion on the "Politics and Development" panel is Eugene J. Huang, Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. This panel will examine the political elements necessary to create change among community leaders and at the grass roots level. Questions surrounding the steps to create a new economy in rural communities will be raised and discussed.

Lemuel C. Stewart, Jr., chief information officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia Technology Investment Board, will lead the "Embracing E-Government" panel. This panel will discuss how the use of technology can greatly benefit the function of government by broadly improving government functions.

In addition to these experts, other speakers are currently being assigned to populate the discussion panels. If you have any interest in participating in a panel discussion, please contact Justin Hendrix at (434) 766-6749.

The complete IRCNAT program and registration information is available online at http://www.ircnat.com.

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