Karen A. Gerwitz; President & CEO, World Trade Center Denver

WTC Denver has been an active WTCA Member since 1987, and concentrates on delivering quality trade education, global business consulting services, and trade research for all industries in the Rocky Mountain region. Since 1973, Denver has hosted one of the most popular World Trade Day Conferences in the United States, which typically attracts 700 attendees at its in-person gatherings every May.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WTC Denver had to innovate and leveraged the latest technology to convert this annual in-person conference into a five-part virtual series, with only three weeks to plan the transition from in-person to online. This became the first-ever virtual “World Trade Month 2020.”

We used Zoom (TM) Webinars, which allowed for weekly speakers and sponsors to be seen and heard, and participants were able to network via the chat function and ask questions via the Q&A feature. Sessions were recorded and shared with all participants afterwards, and the series, along with the attendee list, will be housed on WTC Denver’s Learning Management System for future access and networking. 

Kicking off this year’s conference was a keynote speech from renowned author, Dr. Parag Khanna of Singapore, titled “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Globalization in a Post Pandemic World.” Dr. Khanna set the stage and shared global trends of the importance of supply chain connectivity, and how cities play a key role in driving change despite global challenges like climate change and, now, a global pandemic. 

Other topics covered throughout the weekly series included: a panel discussion with WTCA’s Regional Teams on different approaches to recover from the pandemic, and panel discussions on the importance of global supply chains and sustainable supply chains; the intersection of immigration and innovation; the impact on the aviation industry and Denver’s International Airport; the global entry of Colorado’s newest industry (the CBD industry); and the future of blockchain, fintech, and API, and its impact on trade. We were pleased that this year’s online conference series included nearly 500 attendees from 10 countries and 14 WTCs, many of whom even participated in our final Zoom (TM) Happy Hour closing the conference. 

Converting these conferences into an online series created the ability to provide content to WTCs throughout the North American Region and beyond. Never has there been a better opportunity for us all to come together and share content, best practices, excess capacity, and support throughout our network! Be sure to take the opportunity to tune in to a number of webinars and virtual programs hosted by other WTCs around the world. 

How can we continue this virtual connectivity for years to come in our Association? I hope this crisis — that has brought us to our knees economically — sparks unfettered innovation from all WTCs, and fosters our connectivity and ability to better serve the companies that rely on us for support to get back on track. 

Photo caption: World Trade Centers Association Executive Panel speaking on international trade during COVID-19. 

Photo credit: World Trade Center Denver