Thursday WITC-Ashland was filled with ideas, and more significantly, with people who turn ideas into reality.

At the first ラ and sure not to be the last ラ Lake Superior Technology Conference, business leaders met with government officials and with innovators to talk shop and explore how technology can drive the economic future of northern Wisconsin.

More importantly, the focus was on building a high-tech economy based on the resources we have here ラ our workforce, forests, and manufacturing base, to name a handful ラ while maintaining the environment and quality of life we enjoy.

Roger Hansen of Ashland, a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni group that has been the driving force behind the conference, summed up the feeling well, saying he came into the conference thinking he had a good road map, but halfway through was so excited about the new possibilities that he knew he had a lot more to do. And he was smiling as he talked about taking on more challenges.

And challenges there will be. But the conference was filled with people who have already achieved success in a high-tech economy ラ people like Ashland’s David Bretting, who has led his family company through changes in a global economy to remain a leader in the paper-converting industry, and people like Mike Martino of D3, an Iron River company that destroys digital data.

The possibilities for increasing a sustainable agricultural industry were explored, with the promise of the Ashland Agricultural Research Station being a spot where new ideas and products could be incubated.

And there were government officials on hand who weren’t there to hand out red tape. Instead, they wanted to know how they could help, and offered their expertise.

High-tech, sustainable and profitable?

We want it all. And it’s possible.