23 Aug Tech Corridor Growing Workforce
A state senate committee recently recommended Savannah as a premier destination for a new information technology corridor, a victory for ongoing efforts to strengthen the area’s workforce.
Georgia Sen. P.K. Martin (R-9) chairs the Senate Information Technology Corridors study committee, and the Coastal Empire wasn’t on the committee’s radar when it began work.
Savannah quickly rose to one of two cities named after work from local champions. Augusta also made this list. The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center is currently under construction in Augusta. The center will provide cyber security awareness, training and education to state agency information security officers. Plans are for it to open in July. The state investment there for the center alone is $35 million and will only increase. It’s time for the same investment in Savannah.
From the training at Georgia Tech-Savannah’s ATDC to the fledgling companies finding a perch at Bull Street Labs, the local potential for this scale of development and investment is high.
The demands of the logistics industry alone should be enough to get attention, but there’s so much more in the business and everyday culture to feed what could be a thriving business plan for the area.
Savannahian Keith Fletcher, chief operating officer for local technology firm Speros, helped present our case to the state. He says groups key to the new designation are logistics and hospitality industries, where the impact could draw high-tech jobs that could pay more than $100,000 each.
Also crucial to the effort will be gigabit-speed broadband, a qualified workforce, education, transportation and a good quality of life.
Savannah scores high on most of those points but still has work to do on the education and workforce area – two pieces that are currently targeted by the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camps underway locally to increase quickly the number of work-ready coders. If the training pace of that single program continues, 200 skilled coders will be in the workforce in less than five years.
Any graduates of Georgia Southern University, Savannah State University and SCAD with those skills would be in addition to that number. The Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center-Savannah stands ready to help small and large businesses learn and expand.
Patrick Bentley, Emerging Industries Project Manager for the Savannah Economic Development Authority, says this type of work also has the potential to help solve one of the area’s critical problems: poverty.
It’s crucial to reach students early with technology and engineering education, and that’s the only way to raise standards over time. Not all jobs high-tech brings require a college degree. A technology corridor is a great idea, but it will require a team focused on recruiting and nurturing local students by showing them all the possibilities. We hope Georgia Southern, with its added weight now in Savannah on the Armstrong campus, will use its engineering and health professional schools’ muscle to help inspire those who might look to tech fields.
Bentley warned in a recent Savannah Morning News story that we must be focus locally.
“We push to make the city attractive,” he said. “but if we don’t include the local workforce, you raise standards and locals can be inadvertently left out. We have to include training for our jobs.” He was also right that building a feeder tech corridor is a long-term solution.
“Savannah has all the raw materials, but it’s a long-term fight,” Bentley said. Now that Savannah is on the map, so to speak, follow-through is up to the state and next steps may include committee recommendations that the state legislature become more involved and aware of the “constantly changing information technology industry…”
Only one thing is lacking – a leader. There’s no organized effort for the Savannah area to keep the momentum the study brings. The work now includes identifying the groups and geography to encourage collaboration and innovation.
It’s time for the local government, legislators and companies with vision to gather the information the state will need to create the corridor and make the idea a reality that pays dividends for generations.
Original Article from Savannah Morning News