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September 13, 2011 | last updated December 1, 2011 3:26 pm
Portlandbiz

TEDxDirigo speakers highlight innovation

The second annual TEDxDirigo talks took place at the Portland Stage Co. on Saturday, drawing a crowd of almost 300 attendees. Eighteen presenters shared pithy remarks that matched TED's criteria of being "an idea worth spreading."

These were the business highlights of the day:

Dr. Habib Dagher, director of University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center and described by TEDxDirigo as an "offshore wind leader," kicked off the all-day event by speaking about the ambitious timeline he has to build a $20 billion, 5-gigawatt wind farm off Maine's shore by 2030. The turbines will produce as much energy as five nuclear power plants, he said. In October, Cianbro will begin the construction of modules for prototypes that will be tested off Monhegan Island next summer. "It's a chance to diversify the economy," Dagher said, adding that developing offshore energy could generate and sustain thousands of jobs.

John Rooks, billed as "a seeker of real sustainability" by TEDxDirigo, runs the Soap Group, a marketing consulting company in Portland. Among other things, he offers his clients "authenticity audits" to measure the gap between what they say and do. Rooks said the average person is exposed to thousands of marketing messages a day, many of them touting something green. And while green marketing is responding to people's increasing desire for sustainability -- e.g. farmers' markets and local produce -- it's not always authentic. And much of green consumerism has become a misguided attempt to save the planet through buying stuff. "Most green marketing is a wink," Rooks said. "People can buy [products] and say, 'I'm saving the world' and wink back." Rooks said we should be making products that increase in value over time and create "heirloom experiences."

Kerem Durdag, CEO of high-tech company Biovation in Boothbay, makes antimicrobial fiber pads from corn-based biopolymers that can be used to keep fruit E-coli-free and wounds from becoming infected. Because TEDx discourages sales pitches, Durdag didn't talk about his company; instead he enlightened the audience about his first 48 hours in the United States after he emigrated from Pakistan to attend college here. He had the audience in uproarious laughter as he joked about becoming a "Paki-Turko-English-Muslim-Christian hybrid" and his first confusing and touching experiences as an immigrant.

Dr. Rafael Grossmann Zamora, a trauma surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, described how introducing the iPod Touch to emergency rooms in Maine hospitals is transforming trauma surgery for very little money. Maine has three trauma centers in Bangor, Lewiston and Portland and a huge territory, forcing many injured patients to travel long distances when every minute is critical to saving their lives. But as long as two doctors have iPod Touches or iPhones, they can work together to treat patients virtually. Grossmann calls the practice teletrauma. "It's so simple, so obvious and so inexpensive," he said.

TEDxDirigo is a local offshoot of the 27-year-old national TED conferences, which invite luminaries from diverse fields to speak succinctly about inspirational ideas. The videos are recorded and put online to disseminate them beyond their original audiences.

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