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No Time Like the Present: United for Infrastructure Week is Here, and Industrial Innovation Expert Hank Torbert Convenes Panel on Economic Returns

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The United for Infrastructure full week of activities kicked off in Washington, DC yesterday, with virtual events that include an address from US President Joseph Biden.

In 2021, United for Infrastructure and its coalition of more than 540 Affiliates from business, labor, and governments across America are calling on our leaders in Washington to "Lead With Infrastructure," with investments, policies, and reforms needed to keep people safe, to make families healthier, communities more resilient and equitable, and drive economic growth and prosperity.

One of the virtual events, which is free and open to the public, is a panel of experts convened by Hank Torbert, founder of The Frontier, an organization focused on promoting industrial innovation by bringing new technology companies to the forefront each year at their annual conference.

Torbert is a seasoned business leader operating at the nexus of finance, strategy, innovation, and operations within the industrials and energy sectors. He is an expert on how new technologies (such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, transmission technologies, and synthetic biology, etc.) are changing the industrial landscape and its implications on strategy and investment decisions.

He serves as both a private equity investor and a corporate strategist for several boards, committees, and organizations. He has worked with early-stage to billion-dollar companies in the industrials, energy, media/technology, transportation, and financial services sectors.

"This is no ordinary time," Torbert said, "as, after a historically challenging year, we are now in a once-in-a-lifetime position to create programs that bring jobs and prosperity to Americans while supporting the growth of companies with solutions in the physical and digital worlds.

Torbert's panel, "The Economic Payoffs of Infrastructure Investment," will address the ambitious proposals and heated debates and the overwhelming support of the American people who have long approved improvements of roads, bridges, tunnels, the electrical grid, public buildings, transportation systems and more, especially when those improvements take advantage of new technologies that reduce costs and improve quality and resiliency.

"The cost of infrastructure investment is being addressed from a variety of different viewpoints, many of which are arguing either for or against the ambitious spending plan based on economic impact," Torbert said, "While part of the argument for the plan is near term job creation, part of the argument against the plan is the increase in taxes associated with paying for the improvements. This panel will address what is often lost in this discussion - the longer-term impact on the competitiveness of the economy resulting from infrastructure modernization."

America faces immense challenges: ending the COVID pandemic, rebuilding the American economy, mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis, and making our communities more just, livable, and equitable for everyone, said the United for Infrastructure organization. "Infrastructure is key to addressing each of these. Infrastructure can jumpstart the economy through strategic stimulus and keep people safe on their commute to work or drinking water from their tap. It enables people to work and learn remotely. It is the foundation of our society."

Torbert will be joined by some of the brightest smart city, data and analytics, and government experts, bridging across these disciplines to bring a range of experiences and predictions to the table.

Panelists include:

Brenna Berman, CEO at City Tech Collaborative

Brenna Berman serves as CEO & Executive Director of City Tech. Prior to joining City Tech, Brenna served in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, which she joined in 2011. She served as the Chief Information Officer for the City and Commissioner for the Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) from 2012 to 2017. In that time, she focused on transforming the team at DoIT to provide the skills and expertise to implement the Mayor's vision of data-driven resident services and a more efficient, effective, and innovative City government. This meant adding new skills to the team to increase the focus on software engineering and analytics, improving the department's commercial partnerships to drive savings for the City, and identifying ground-breaking civic partnerships.

During her tenure as CIO, Brenna delivered on the Mayor's commitment to a robust open data program, integrated advanced analytics into many city departments, drove IoT innovation for the City through unique partnerships at City Tech and the founding of the Midwest IoT Council, and, in partnership with the University of Chicago, realized the vision of urban-scale sensing with the Array of Things.

Prior to joining the Emanuel Administration, Brenna built a career promoting government innovation over 10 years at IBM, where she worked closely with government agencies in cities and countries across the world to leverage technology and analytics to improve the services they provide to their residents. She advised governments on a variety of issues, from targeting personalized services through analytics to normalizing program offerings to simplify the delivery process and make them understandable to residents. Throughout her time at IBM, Brenna tailored cutting-edge business and data models, from processes to analytic algorithms for large government organizations, in order to accelerate their own modernization efforts.

Brenna earned her bachelor's degree and Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

Max Wolff, CEO at Systematic Ventures

Co-Founder, CEO Systematic Ventures, and Visiting Faculty at the Milano Graduate Program in International Affairs. Max was part of the core team at 55ip before it was sold to JP Morgan and has been Chief Economist and Research Director for numerous investment firms. He has also made thousands of appearances in leading media outlets (CNBC, Bloomberg, Reuters, WSJ, etc.) He completed his coursework for a Ph.D. in economics from The University of Massachusetts. Max sits on several start-up boards.

Chris Rezendes, Chief Business Officer at Spherical Analytics

Chris has been advising, investing in, and operating secure technology businesses in national security, infrastructure, and industrial markets for 30 years. Chris is currently Chief Business Officer at SaaS providers ContextLABS and its climate-focused subsidiary, Spherical|Analytics. The companies offer an Enterprise Data Fabric SW platform recently recognized by Gartner for its ability to enable trust in machine data and other unstructured data (satellites, sensors, etc.) to support climate and other ESG-related disclosure by enterprises and consumption of that data by risk and finance partners. This work includes using digital proof of performance to support a new generation of digital assets in ESG aligned capital markets. Chris serves on multiple Boards, from multi-billion-dollar financial firms to early-stage cyber and climate tech companies.

Chris Bonanti, Managing Partner at RWV Consulting; former Special Assistant to the Administrator at Federal Railroad Administration

Chris is a respected strategist, technologist, and leader, experienced in both public and private industries. With a background including management, engineering, and regulatory and compliance consulting, he has led major projects in transportation, environmental planning, traffic safety and a pioneer in moving Vehicle to Vehicle communication research forward as well as drafting autonomous vehicle policy and guidance for the United States, and has served his country through work at the NHTSA, FAA, FRA, NTSB, as a staffer at both the US Congress and Senate, and as a Marine who served during Desert Shield.

The panel takes place Wednesday, May 12, starting at 11 AM Eastern. You can register for the event here.


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Luke Bellos

Special Correspondent

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