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Long Beach to host influential TED conference

January 16, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

The annual Technology, Entertainment, Design conference, an invitation-only confab that attracts movers and shakers such as Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and Bono, is moving to Long Beach after 20 years in Monterey, organizers said Tuesday.

Beginning in March 2009, the Long Beach Performing Arts Center will play host to various leaders and innovators opining on questions such as "What is life?" and "Will evil prevail?" for four days.

Chris Anderson, who leads the conference, said it had simply outgrown its Monterey venue, where 1,300 attendees were lining up to squeeze into a hall designed to seat 500. The southward move will allow for a slightly larger crowd without higher ticket prices, which begin at $6,000 per person.

"It just had to feel right, like a place where you can have amazing conversations with amazing people," Anderson said.

"It honestly could have been anywhere in the U.S."

Organizers said they wanted to maintain the intimacy of the exclusive convention and would increase attendance by just 100 next year. But the Long Beach center's Terrace Theater seats 3,051, leaving plenty of room for growth.

Some observers said the move was an indication of Southern California's increasing importance in the technology industry, noting that TED was only one of a number of conferences and networks that have ventured south from Northern California in recent years.

"The conference coming to Los Angeles is bringing the recognition that our little city here truly deserves, that we are really a premier technology research and commercialization center," said Mark Lieberman, manager of regional economic development for Los Angeles County.

Technology gurus said they hoped the conference's prominent attendees would bring new opportunities to Southern California's innovators.

"It brings people into the area that wouldn't normally be in the area, such as venture capitalists," said Benjamin Kuo, who runs SocalTECH.com, a website that tracks the local technology industry.

Jim Armstrong, managing director of Santa Monica-based Clearstone Venture Partners, said the new locale might shift the focus of the dialogue at the conference. "It should also take on an L.A. flavor, with less technology and more creativity," said Armstrong, who was invited three years ago but wasn't able to attend.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster welcomed the decision in his State of the City address Tuesday.

"It is a community of the finest thinkers and doers of our time . . . and those remarkable people will gather annually right here in Long Beach beginning in 2009," he said.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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