TeCMEN Industry Day at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center

OKALOOSA ISLAND — Some 350 business, community and educational leaders filled the halls of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on Tuesday to talk tech and network during the fifth annual TeCMEN Industry Day.

TeCMEN is shorthand for the “Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network,” a local industry group established in 1989 by One Okaloosa Economic Development Council. TeCMEN’s members include more than 40 technology, engineering and manufacturing companies, as well as educational and workforce development partners.

Col. Tony Meeks, commander of the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base's Air Force Research Laboratory,  talks with students in the Hsu Educational Foundation's UAS Center of Excellence on Tuesday during the fifth annual TeCMEN Industry Day at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on Okaloosa Island.

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“It’s mission is to propagate the growth and expansion of our area’s technology, manufacturing and engineering businesses,” said Nathan Sparks, executive director of the One Okaloosa Economic Development Council. “We do that by bringing those businesses together monthly for purposeful discussions and presentations that align with their needs and opportunities.

“We create an environment where sharing of information is status quo,” Sparks added. “We recognize in that setting you may have (business) competitors seated next to one another, but when we’re together as TeCMEN we’re all thinking more broadly about the growth of these industries in our community and region.”

Diane Fraser, director of the Emerald Coast Science Center, gives a demonstration of the center's planetarium to David Lambert on Tuesday during the fifth annual TeCMEN Industry Day held at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on Okaloosa Island.

Tuesday’s industry day combined a series of individual and panel speaker events, and a large exhibit hall with more than 50 companies and organizations representing science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries, or STEM, in Northwest Florida. This year’s theme was innovation, and nowhere was that more evident than at the exhibit booth for the Hsu Educational Foundation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence.