The first thing you think of when you consider ice cream is not usually technology. Sure, you know it's involved. But it's in the background. Freezer trucks and transportation.
Brian Waller, president of the Technology Association of Iowa, said he has heard a different take, and it helped inspire a road trip that will reach Burlington and Ottumwa in Southeast Iowa in 2020.
The Iowa Technology Roadshow is a new outreach effort designed to reach audiences outside of Iowa's major cities. Waller said the goal is to both teach about the need for companies and employees to think about technology and make the connections to help them do so.
How does that involve ice cream? Thank Blue Bunny.
Waller recalled a conversation with Mike Wells, CEO of the Le Mars-based company, in which Wells said he considers Blue Bunny to be a technology company. Tracking sales in real time to identify trends and when to make shipments requires a significant technological investment. But doing so means Blue Bunny can hop right on things if there's an issue, resolving potential problems before customers even notice.
"Technology has been seen as a cost," Waller said. "But technology is a value-add now. In the last decade things have advanced so quickly. He [Wells] really moved our association to start thinking differently."
A big part of why things have changed so much so recently is the growth of high-speed internet connections. As those reach into rural parts of the country, areas that may not have considered themselves in need of technological innovation are beginning to see the potential.
Each stop on the roadshow includes a four-person panel discussion. The lineup will change for different stops. The visit is scheduled for April 27 in Burlington and April 28 in Ottumwa with additional details to be released.
Waller said the TAI hopes the visits can help shift companies, employees and students from "consumers of technnology" to "creators of technology."
"The new leadership really gets it," he said. "We want to build and unite Iowa technology companies. This is going to be a great opportunity to change perceptions."