BitNet originated in Mayor Walter Mulkewich’s vision for revitalizing Burlington’s local economy in 1992. The City’s Local Economic Action Plan identified Burlington’s economy as a restructuring one facing an information technology revolution. In order to grow and compete globally, this sector needed to connect and communicate. The key to this was networking.
Mayor Mulkewich shared his idea with BitNet board member, Neil Howie who seized upon the concept and enthusiastically spread the word about this networking group that would encourage the Information Technology sectors to communicate with one another.
The first meeting of approximately 10 people was held in 1992 in a conference room at the City of Burlington. Attendees exchanged business cards, described their work and networked informally.
Neil Howie then involved Mary Dillon Manager of the City’s Economic Development Office at the time. She suggested the present BitNet format of inviting people to breakfast where they could listen to an informative speaker from the IT industry for free! This proved to be the winning formula for BitNet coupled with Neil’s uncanny ability to identify dynamic, interesting speakers that kept members abreast of the rapid changes in the information technology industry.
Until 1999 when BitNet became an independent organization, administrative support was provided by the City of Burlington. Invitations were sent out to each meeting and the growing mailing list was maintained.
In 1998, BitNet partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (MEDT) and the Halton Region to present a seminar called Harnessing Information Technology. Presenters included Sun MicroSystems, IBM, Break-Through Business Systems and Neil Howie. This event attracted 35 participants.
In 1999 Sondra Meis of the MEDT and Scott McCammon of the Burlington Chamber, Neil Howie and Steven Rieck , mentored the BitNet Organizational Task Force which oversaw BitNet’s transition to its present status of not-for-profit incorporation. It was always Mayor Mulkewich’s vision that BitNet would eventually become an independent organization run by a Board of 12 volunteers. This was achieved in November 1999.
Currently, BitNet continues its bimonthly speaker series in the Shoreline Room of the Burlington Art Centre, 1333 Lakeshore Rd.