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Microsoft - How tech opportunities are energizing towns across the US

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How tech opportunities are energizing towns across the US

In the combined TechSpark region of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, manufacturing dominates the economy through assembly plants and low-wage jobs. The region’s distance from tech-rich cities and the global headquarters of companies that own the plants makes it tough for startups to claim a larger part of the massive manufacturing market.

But the Bridge Accelerator, a partnership between TechSpark and Technology HUB, a binational business incubator, is making inroads. More than 20 companies have gone through the program and learned how to think globally.

Man stands in front of sign that says
Ricardo Mora (photo courtesy of Mora)

“A lot of them are doing amazing work, but they’re only selling locally,” says Ricardo Mora, CEO of Technology HUB, which is based in both Juárez and El Paso. “We’re saying, ‘Listen guys, we’re going to train you, and you’re going to learn how to sell to global companies.’”

The region’s cross-border identity is a source of strength, with a young, largely Hispanic population of people who understand cultural differences, are often dual citizens and “want to make better opportunities for themselves every day,” says J.J. Childress, Microsoft TechSpark manager in El Paso.

“This is truly a binational effort,” he says of the Bridge Accelerator. “How do we create a soft landing for companies that want to access Latin American markets? How do we take the innovation from Mexican companies and give them access to North America?”

The training helped Rene Pons, an entrepreneur in Chihuahua, Mexico, meet a community of like-minded businesspeople and learn how to approach global companies.

“For a startup, a really huge problem is connecting with a big corporation and having them trust you,” says Pons, who co-founded PPAP Manager, maker of a digital solution that helps streamline automotive supply chains. He says establishing trust with global customers is even harder for companies in Mexico, which isn’t known for digital innovation.

“The Bridge Accelerator is opening the door to start conversations and getting an opportunity to be trusted,” Pons says.

Southern Virginia

Row of historic buildings in a small town
South Boston, Virginia (photo by Brian Smale)

The tiny town of South Boston, Virginia, hasn’t seen new construction in nearly 40 years, so the rise of a new building where tobacco warehouses once stood is exciting news.

Even better is that it will house the SOVA Innovation Hub, a partnership between TechSpark and Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities, whose open-access fiber networks have provided broadband access to help bridge the digital divide in southern Virginia. The building will house the nonprofit’s headquarters, a Microsoft experience center and space to help digital skilling nonprofits. That’s good news for an economy built on manufacturing and still struggling with the loss of tobacco and textile industries.

“Job stability is very difficult. Internet access is difficult. There’s a tremendous amount of poverty,” says Paul Nichols, superintendent of Mecklenburg County Public Schools.

The majority of his students qualify for a free or reduced lunch, and while fiber networks have changed the commercial landscape, many residents still don’t have broadband.

A female teacher stands in front of a colorful board in a classroom
Krystal Patton teaches programming and Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification courses in Mecklenburg County with the support of TEALS. (Photo courtesy of Paul Nichols)

“It’s like years ago when we had the same issue with electricity in rural areas,” Nichols says.

He’s looking forward to the economic investment and is grateful he’s been able to offer high school computer science classes with the support of Microsoft’s TEALS program. The classes help students think creatively to solve problems in all subjects, not just computer science.

“It’s challenged students to think and learn in a new way,” Nichols says. “With technology being foundational for all careers, we’re now looking at how to make computational thinking a part of all of our classes.”



https://www.sickgaming.net/blog/2020/11/...ss-the-us/
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