TechConKona, Curing What Ails the Big Island

TechConKona Flyer


In a recent Huffington Post Hawaii article I wrote about the “joys” of living on the Big Island of Hawaii, I received comments like,  “REALLY? Is it THAT easy to live there?”,  “What about your energy issues?” “How about your lack of good paying technology jobs?” “What about your food security problems?”

Whoa! Yes, the Big Island certainly has its issues. However, instead of hand wringing, I did something about it. I decided to put on a conference called TechConKona and invited leaders who ARE doing something about these issues right now to share their work with people who can make solving these issues possible and add their own ideas to the mix.

The conference is headlined by three prominent speakers: Henk Rogers, who helped create Tetris, one of the world’s first computer games and founder of the Blue Planet Foundation, Sonny Bhagawalia, the State of Hawaii’s first Chief Information Officer, and Chef James Babian, local restauranteur who will address small business owners, farmers, chefs, digital marketing professionals and sustainability change agents. The conference will focus on the key elements of business success-energy, tech and food issues. The conference will encourage working together to find systems that benefit the island AND local business.

I was happy to hear that Henk Rogers works to bring people on this island with great tech ideas together with venture capital firms in Silicon Valley so we can foster business right here.

TechConKona is a full-day conference being held on Saturday November 2nd at the NELHA Gateway Center near Kona from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  A fundraising pau hana will follow from 4-6:30 pm to benefit the Guy Toyama Memorial Fund.

Tickets to the event are $75 and VIP tickets are $100. Registered attendees receive full conference access, refreshments, post-event networking fundraising reception benefiting the Guy Toyama Memorial Fund and access to exhibitors. Tickets can be purchased at TechConKona.

The conference, which will feature exhibitors, networking opportunities, a luncheon, and a pau-hana business reception.

TechConKona is sponsored by the County of Hawaii, the Small Business Development Center, Waikoloa Community Development Corporation,  Mac Made Easy, Natural Investments, Ziemelis Communications and Hafner Communications.

Companies interested in being exhibitors at the event can contact Julie Ziemelis, Ziemelis Communications, at 808-854-6769 or email [email protected].


Keynote Speakers are:

Henk Rogers – Video game designer and entrepreneur.  Best known for bringing Tetris to the world, Mr. Rogers, a Big Island resident, is founder and Chairman of the Blue Planet Foundation, which is currently working on ensuring Hawaii is moving towards it’s energy sustainability goals. Mr. Rogers is a proponent of food security on Hawaii Island. He will be discussing how technology and sustainability intersect for the benefit of all island residents.

Sonny Bhagawalia – The State of Hawaii’s first Chief Information Officer.  Mr. Bhagowalia has headed IT in multiple federal agencies including the US Department of the Interior. He is now working with the state of Hawaii to increase broadband access for all of the islands. He will be presenting, and is encouraging small business to share their concerns with him. Sonny’s goal is investing in people. He is working to use the government workforce and provide them with the things they need and grow them in their jobs. He believes in giving people something exciting and a reason to stay here in Hawaii and not go to the mainland.

Sam Choy – Chef, restaurateur, author and television personality. Mr. Choy is known as a founding contributor of “Pacific rim cuisine.”  Pioneer of local, organic food on the Big Island, Choy was bringing the concept of “farm to fork” before people even knew the term. A champion of the concept of locally growing what local restaurants need, Choy will share his thoughts on food channel challenges and successes.

Speakers include:

Michael Kramer – Managing Partner and Director of Social Research for Natural Investments LLC, founder of the Hawaii Alliance for a Local Economy and board member of the Sustainability Association of Hawaii.  Mr. Kramer is the voice of green business in Hawaii, helping pass legislation to establish a new corporate structure in Hawaii, the Sustainable Business Corporation. Mr. Kramer will discuss the Think Local Buy Local campaign for local businesses and his work on the Big Island.

Amber Bieg – Sustainability expert, business consultant, and strategic marketing consultant.  Ms. Bieg works in the San Francisco Bay Area to work on cutting edge projects which include and . These projects use technology to re-localize production of products and she will be a great resource for local farmers, food producers, restaurant managers, chefs and more.

Scott Schang – Manager at Broadview Mortgage, Orange, CA.  Mr. Schang is a successful business owner who helped pioneer inbound/content marketing in his field by utilizing the WordPress blogging platform, search engine optimization and Google analytics. An expert in SEO, website development for small business, and online marketing, Scott will share his knowledge about successfully marketing small businesses online.

Julie Ziemelis-Owner, Ziemelis Communications in Kona, Hawaii. Ms. Ziemelis is a local blogger, social media expert and marketing professional. Ms. Ziemelis is an influential online voice for Kona utilizing a variety of online social media platforms. She will share success stories, case studies and mobile applications to help you get your online marketing game ON!

Denise Laitinen-Big Island Blogger and Firewise Communities Hawaii Communities. Ms. Laitinen, a Stanford graduate, has been a Big Island journalist/writer for many years. Denise will focus her discussion on “Think Local, Hire Local” and will contribute her extensive knowledge in using social media platforms for outreach and marketing on the social media panel.

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at and and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

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