Tech Nite Honors Innovators

By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record  4/30/19
 
HARRISONBURG — Over 250 people sang “Happy Birthday” to Mike Goertzen, of the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council and Serco Inc., to celebrate his 50th birthday, but they were gathered in the Festival Ballroom of James Madison University for a different reason Monday evening.
The Shenandoah Valley Technology Council held Tech-Nite 19 with guests representing various government, educational and agriculture sector technology enterprises. The annual event is the largest of its kind in the Valley and features eight awards recognizing people, organizations and businesses for their work with technology.
“It’s the 19th year and it’s 2019,” said Nicky Swayne, CEO of the council.
Nicky Swayne’s husband, Nick Swayne, of JMU X-Labs and 4-VA, as well as a member of the Harrisonburg School Board, was the winner of Shentel’s Dr. Noftsinger Leadership Award for “positive technology- related” activity.
“[I want] to create this place where our children graduate and want to stay in the Valley and get good-paying jobs,” Nick Swayne said.
The eight awards are form of recognition, with no economic benefit, but come with a physical award, Nicky Swayne said.
Winners are decided by a panel of judges, of which Nicky Swayne was not a member.
“Of course I’m proud of my husband,” she said with a laugh.
The judges are entrepreneurs, educators and technology leaders, some of whom are board members.
“It’s a pretty diverse group,” Nicky Swayne said.
The nominations for the awards began on Feb. 15 and ran until March 15, resulting in over 31 nominees.
Judges met and compared notes based on the guidelines of awards before naming winners of seven of the eight awards. The final award is a People’s Choice award, which is tabulated via hashtags minutes before the award is given, Nicky Swayne said.
 
Innovation In Emerging Business
Workplaceless, a Shenandoah Valley-based company that develops remote working solutions, took home the James Madison University College of Business’ Innovation in Emerging Business Award.
“On behalf of our entire team, I want to say thank you,” said Tammy Bjelland, founder and CEO of Workplaceless. “I’d also like to thank our small but mighty team.”
The company will continue its work in leveraging more opportunities for the working rural population, she said.
 
Innovation In Higher Education
The winner of Cadence’s Innovation in Higher Education Award was the computer science program of Lord Fairfax Community College, which has locations in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont.
Melissa Stange oversaw a group of LFCC students from different curriculums on a project with other students in Amman, Jordan,
as they worked to improve sustainability in travel and hospitality.
“I also want to thank administrators for being open to my unique ideas for the students,” she said.
 
Innovation In Community Impact
Exploring Rockingham’s Past won the Innovation in Community Impact Award. The program is a collaboration between the Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, JMU History and JMU Libraries. It aims to maintain, conserve and make public certain historic legal records.
“The courthouse is just packed and tight, so we’ve digitized thousands and thousands of records,” said Kevin Borg, of JMU’s Department of History.
 
Innovation In Utilization
Dynamic Aviation’s Innovation in Utilization Award was bestowed to Cub Run Dairy, an eastern Rockingham County farm, which uses many technologically advanced methods to increase output and sustainability.
“I also want to thank all the innovators and investors who have not forgotten about agriculture,” said Anita Heatwole of Cub Run Dairy.
Her son, Monte, and husband, Gerald, could not be present for the award ceremony due to being out in the field working, she said.
 
Innovation In Development
BarTrack Inc. took home the Center for Innovative Technology’s Innovation in Development Award.
The company’s products use technology to improve beer pours and management of inventory.
“I cannot begin to express how much this means to Bar-Track,” said Brett Danielson, of Bartrack Inc.
 
Innovation In K-12 Education
The winner of the Innovation in K- 12 Education was the Technology Camps of Blue Ridge Community College. The camps are free, weeklong STEM camps.
“We’re planting seeds for these kids to get into technology,” said Matt Goss, director of the Technology Intensive Manufacturing Service Center at BRCC.
 
People’s Choice
The popular vote winner is decided a few minutes prior to the award being given, Nicky Swayne said.
Toni Sheets, the executive director of technology at Harrisonburg City Public Schools, took home the People’s Choice Award, and was nominated for the leadership award.
“The people that I work with are amazing and make me who I am,” she said.
Many of her co-workers have supported her through challenges and risks. “
None of would be in this room if we didn’t take risks,” she said.