By David Benda, Record Searchlight, September 2013
Can Redding model Greenville, S.C., the former textile capital of the south that boosters say has transformed itself into an innovative hub?
Economic Development Corp. (EDC) of Shasta County President Mark Lascelles would like to think so.
For the second time in as many years, Lascelles booked a Greenville resident to headline today’s EDC Game Changers event at the Redding Civic Auditorium.
“We will never be Silicon Valley, but I absolutely believe we can be Greenville,” Lascelles told the gathering of business and community leaders who attended the event.
Peter Barth, director of the startup accelerator The Iron Yard in Greenville, said capital is indeed a challenge for startup companies. But maybe just as difficult is supplying the workforce to keep technical companies home after they start
It’s a problem communities like Redding also face.
So The Iron Yard started adult computer coding and programming classes. Tuition is $10,000 for three months of training, but Barth said graduates are guaranteed a job that pays at least $50,000 a year, or they get their money back.
Fifteen students graduated from the first class, and Barth said all were placed.
“We had three people who were waiting tables and they each got jobs making $60,000 a year,” Barth said. “So that is something that can be repeated in every town.”
The EDC hopes to do just that.
After Barth’s presentation, Lascelles announced that Build It, a Redding startup that this summer taught children how to build robots out of Legos, in January will start offering adult coding and programming classes at is Merchant Street location.
The school will be called Code It Boot Camp.
Faye and David Hall, who moved to Redding from Santa Cruz last year, started Build It as way to get their two children excited about education. The couple worked with the city’s Recreation Department to offer robotic-building classes this
summer. Faye Hall worked for Sprint in the mid-1990s building its wireless phone network from the ground up. She also worked for eBay in its early days.
The Halls’ company was among 20 North State firms that the EDC brought in to display their wares at today’s event.
Other companies included Click Play CEU, an online healthcare continuing education university that is accredited in every state; YouCaring.com, a company that helps people raise money for causes for free; Sof-Tek, a contract electrical assembly
company with clients around the world; and Charity Sound, a distribution by contribution startup that recruits music fans to promote their favorite band while supporting their favorite cause.
Bob Nash, CEO of Superior California Economic Development, was impressed as he walked around the civic auditorium.
“We have got some pretty incredible thinkers in this town,” Nash said. “You don’t know they are here unless you follow the UPS truck around.”
Meanwhile, Barth’s Iron Yard was born out of the Next Innovation Center in Greenville. Next was a group started by CEOs of “high-impact” companies.
“The idea behind Next is we rub shoulders and some interesting things might happen,” Barth said. Eventually, 60 companies got involved and the Next Center was built, a 60,000-square-foot building that today features 27 companies.
The Iron Yard has two business accelerators and an academy that teaches adults programming and coding. It also offers coding and programming classes to children, which Barth said has been a carrot to woo some of Greenville’s major employers,
like BMW, to get involved with economic development.
“All their kids wanted to get into these classes,” Barth said.