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$2,500 Scholarship Awarded To 2 UNF Freshmen At Tech Coast Conference

The JAX Chamber hosted its 5th annual Tech Coast Conference on Wednesday, featuring a new $2,500 IT scholarship which was awarded to two University of North Florida freshmen.

This year’s iteration of the Tech Coast Conference, held at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in Jacksonville, had several new features including a “Women in IT” panel and community based discussions around tech and education.

Dale Johnston, Sr. Vice President and CIO at Regency Centers, was most excited about the new Tech Coast Scholarship.

According to Johnston, the scholarship was the result of a partnership between the Jacksonville CIO Council and the Jacksonville IT Council, both of which are part of Jacksonville’s chamber of commerce.

“The two groups came together with this similar idea, and that was to offer a scholarship to freshmen at our local university, the University of North Florida, to aid in attracting the best talent to our local universities so they can continue in an IT career and stay local so we can build our IT workforce,” said Johnston.

The recipients of the scholarship were Bailey McIntyre (the NEFL CIO Council Scholar) and Jhett Beyler (the JAX Chamber IT Council Scholar). To qualify, they had to meet the following requirements:

  • Freshmen entering UNF
  • High School GPA higher than 3.75
  • Computing declared as major
  • Must maintain gpa higher than 3.0

Johnston said he thinks the scholarship should be a regular part of the Tech Coast Conference going forward, if interest and funding levels remain the same.
“The Tech Coast Conference was created a little longer than five years ago as a means to bring the community together to share best practices, ideas and trends that are going on in Jacksonville,” said Michael Russo,  President of the Jacksonville Information and Technology Council (JIATC), which is part of the JAX chamber. “And more importantly, to showcase to the city that we are a powerhouse when it comes to the IT industry.”

The annual event serves as a forum for local businesses, technology innovators and locals who work in the tech industry to share advances, opportunities and solutions. The one-day conference featured more than 45 vendors, seminars, training, more than 15 breakout sessions, keynote speakers on the mainstage and panels on a variety of IT-related topics.

“We try to drive what’s hot right now in the IT marketplace in terms of topics,” said Russo. “So cybersecurity, AI, AR, machine learning, the cloud, serviceless infrastructure… things of that nature.”

According to Russo, more than 800 people attended the 2017 Tech Coast Conference.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of Secure Ideas, is a regular speaker at the Tech Coast Conference, and this year’s event was no exception for him. His company was also a featured vendor this year with a booth on site.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the Tech Coast Conference,” said Johnson. “I don’t know if if fits what they want to get out of it, but I’ve always enjoyed the fact that I get to come and interact and deal with other nerds in the community, locally, and learn what they’re doing… what cool and exciting things are happening.”

Russo says Jacksonville tends to have a reputation for being behind on trends when compared to other big markets like San Francisco or cities in the Northeast. But he thinks Jacksonville has everything other major markets have to offer, noting that over the past seven years Jacksonville has consistently been rated as a top market for IT hiring, and its ranked number two in the nation when it comes to people moving to a city.

“I think Jacksonville in the years to come is going to be one of the biggest players that the nation has to offer in terms of IT innovation and talent,” said Russo.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.