A dinner for the history books

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce 61stAnnual Dinner on Sept. 12 was one for the record books. More than 1,000 business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and small business owners made up the sold out capacity crowd at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center making it the largest dinner in Chamber history. (View photo album.)

Our colorful emcee, Debra Kaye, connected the Red Thread linking Madison’s iconic businesses, recent startups and identifiable institutions. Kaye, award winning author of Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, told the packed house, “Innovation is not just about technology, it is about everyday things. We all tweak products in our home or business to make them work better for our own needs. This is innovation. About 20 percent of us, take those tweaks to market and make a business. Those are our entrepreneurs. The economy runs on the steam of innovation.”

Kaye set the tone for an amazing line up of local speakers. Jack Salzwedel, Chairman and CEO of American Family Mutual Insurance Co., reflected on American Family’s long history of innovation and how, even today, the company is always looking for new ways to meet customer needs. He added, “Innovation doesn’t need to be expensive, but human capital is needed and so is leadership. Add creativity to smarts for a powerful formula for innovation.”

Leora Greenburg, CEO of recent startup DineInTime Inc., painted the picture of today’s entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial needs from a community. She challenged the audience to keep looking for the next big idea. Greenburg is a recent graduate of Gener8tor, a business accelerator program based in Madison and Milwaukee that provides money, mentoring and moral support to young tech companies. DineInTime is a product of Gener8tor’s successful formula and Greenburg’s creativity and drive to succeed.

The Chamber dinner also welcomed new UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. She shared her eagerness to connect the red thread between businesses and education. She believes by creating opportunity locally, it will help retain UW graduates to keep top talent in our region.

International guests also “popped” in to the Annual Dinner. The Pop Up Agency unveiled the results of its spring 2013 study of the Madison region. The globetrotting team encouraged community change to give Madison real potential to become the location for innovation. They said, “You need to tell your story and believe it in Madison first.”

To cap off the amazing evening, Chamber President Zach Brandon told the crowd, “Think global, and we will grow local.”

Brandon unveiled “MADi” the next big thing to take Madison to a higher level. A platform that will highlight and guide you to the innovation happening in Madison. But, MADi is not just a Chamber effort. It will take small and large, institutions and entrepreneurs, working together, to put Madison on the larger map. It’s vital everyone in the community asks themselves, “What will I do to build a greater Madison?

Thank you to our amazing sponsors and partners who made the evening possible. Thank you to the wonderful support of our Chamber membership base and the 1,000 people in attendance.

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