Developer Rod Paddock faced some 50 fellow technology enthusiasts Wednesday, their faces illuminated in the darkened room by a smattering of laptops and tablet computers.
"I'm in the business of solving problems," he declared at his address on "Ruby on Rails," just one of a dozen workshops under way at the three-day Devlink Technical Conference.
This is the first time that the conference, featuring more than 650 attendees and 76 speakers from all over the country, has landed in Chattanooga after conference chairman John Kellar moved it from its former home in Nashville.
Keller himself moved to Chattanooga for a job in the technology sector just this year, he said, and was impressed enough with the city to bring the whole conference to the Chattanooga Convention Center .
"There is a real chance for this place to take off," he said. "People are surprised at EPB's fiber-optic Internet here."
From BlueCross BlueShield to tech startup Terenine, local employers worked the crowd to find fresh talent, as business cards with titles like "technology evangelist" or "talent acquisition consultant" flew back and forth across conference tables.
"We're creating intrabusiness apps to make our programs talk to each other," said Duane Hill, who said he was hoping to hire about six programmers for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
Ashley Grizzell, director of the forthcoming Chattanooga office of quality assurance firm CTS, said she plans to hire nearly a dozen developers in Chattanooga as she launches the company's Republic Centre location.
In the meantime, tech gurus alternated between attending keynotes and bumping up their Angry Birds scores, as a TV in the hallway flashed Devlink-related tweets across the right side of the screen.
"There's not really a recession in our industry right now," said Randy Walker, a developer of 15 years. "When businesses are trying to optimize and cut costs during a recession, that takes tech."
In fact, there's always a market for innovation, Kellar added, and right now Chattanooga is that market.
"We've got people from Michigan talking to people from Ohio talking to people from Tennessee," Kellar said. "In the end, it benefits people."