Jeff Harris, left, of ettain group and Chad Solomonson of Microsoft network at Tuesday night’s Charlotte TechExec.

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By BEA QUIRKettain group had just received its Gold Certification from Microsoft, and the provider of professional services and staffing wanted to celebrate. The company, said associate partner Dan Royle, wanted “do something impactful in Charlotte, adding value in a great setting and bringing a lot of people together.”

So, in addition to being one of the sponsors of the Charlotte Tech Exec on Tuesday, the company played host to the event, as well as to Microsoft’s Across America Mobile Event Experience, which demonstrated new “real world” solutions with workstations, tablet PCs, and servers aboard a 50-foot long specially designed Freightliner truck. Some 200 executives from Charlotte’s growing IT community attended the evening reception, and about 45 attended the late afternoon educational session.

The two events got high praise from attendees.

“The new Microsoft products are awesome,” said Mike Rumph, chief technical coordinator at Rent2Buy America, a new property management website.

“We keep this high-level, so people are really networking and developing relationships,” said Chad Solomonson, an account manager with Microsoft, the event’s other host sponsor.

WRAL Local Tech Wire has been holding quarterly Tech Execs in Charlotte for about three years, and the events have developed a reputation as valuable networking venues. Observed marketing consultant Jill Purdy, “This has gotten me jobs because I know people.”

Logical Advantage, which specializes in application outsourcing and custom-built software, was a sponsor for the first time. “It’s all about personal relationships,” said Steve Nolen, one of the firm’s partners. “The company turns three in July, but some of our clients have been working with us (as individuals) for eight years.”

Softchoice, a national reseller of hardware and software, was a sponsor for the first time. “Being connected to the local tech community is a big thing for us, and we want to support the local community,” said Ray Li, who’s with Softchoice’s Charlotte office.. “We were told Tech Exec would be a good opportunity.”

For example, Ronda Briggs, branch manager for Kelly IT Services, said she was at the reception to find out about possible job openings, as well as look for potential candidates. Kelly IT Services places both temporary and full-time technical positions. But there was more to it than that. “I enjoy finding out how people are using technology in their businesses, and I just like meeting people,” she said.

Buzzing With News

Charlotte’s IT community may be relatively small, but there is a lot happening, and the atrium of the Carolina Design Center in Charlotte’s hip South End, where the reception was held, was buzzing with lots of news. (The South End is made up of old warehouses, textile mills and factories, which have been converted into office, retail and residential uses and has undergone a renaissance, being transformed into a center for the city’s creative class.)

There was a lot of excitement about the new Rent2Buy website, which will introduce a new concept in property management on a national scale. The founders are all from Charlotte, and they have enlisted the help of a number of fellow Charlotteans, including Purdy, who is handling marketing. Logical Advantage designed the site.

Jim Stikeleather, head of, a Charlotte firm focused on data storage, was sharing the news about the latest product his company is representing — EM7, an IT management and monitoring tool. He said the product is going head to head against IBM’s Tivoli products and HP’s OpenView. He recently sold the software to the Los Angeles Unified school system.

Jeff Spaulding, vice president of sales and marketing at Peak 10, talked about his company’s latest expansion — 14,000 square feet that are being added to the company’s main office in Charlotte. Half the space will become available mid-June.

Logical Advantage is also expanding this summer — to The Atrium, located off Billy Graham Parkway. The company is doubling its space to 5,000 square feet; staff size has grown to 13.

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