Sac tech boom: What's in it for me?

Start up company empowers local youths

A Forbes article this week is the latest publication to put the Sacramento area in the positive national spotlight.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal published similar pieces in the last two months. They've all detailed Sacramento's growth as a vibrant area that's attracting more and more technology companies.

But if you have no ties to tech and think Sacramento is great as-is, then why should you care?

ABC10 put this question to local tech stakeholders.

Sheri Atwood is the CEO and founder of SupportPay, a startup company that helps parents manage child support and shared expenses.

RELATED: Meet the Sacramento mom on Fast Company's list of 100 most creative people in business

She was interviewed in the Forbes article.

Atwood moved her company from Silicon Valley to Sacramento last year and currently employs five local teens, paying them $12 an hour.

"It was very important for me to target high schoolers who may not necessarily have the resources or the connections into this world," Atwood told ABC10 this week.

One of the teens she employs is Shelby Mitchell, 17, who has been working at SupportPay for some nine months now. She was hired as an intern during the fall of her senior year.

Mitchell graduated from Sac High in June and is heading to UCLA.

"After that, I hope to come back home to Sacramento and start some non-profits," Mitchell said.

She credits, in part, her time at this startup for shaping her goals.

"It's exciting, and that's kind of like fueling me wanting to come back," she added.

"My goal is to keep them employed with us while they're in college," Atwood explained. "That way when she comes back and she wants a job, then all of a sudden I have an employee who's trained for six years, so it works out for both of us."

Employment for Sacramento teens is just one benefit tech companies offer to local families.

"You look at the job creation, right? Myself, I've hired 19 employees in the past three months," Atwood said. "I was predicting to have 11 employees by the end of the year if I stayed in Silicon Valley. Right now we're at 25 and we're hiring five more."

The Forbes article detailing the industry's spread to Sacramento lists 10 factors a successful tech hub must have. Seventh on the list is "Other creature comforts."

Louis Stewart is the city of Sacramento's chief innovation manager. It's a new position for the city; Stewart started May 15.

In terms of "creature comforts," or quality-of-life-boosting public amenities, Stewart pointed to the Golden 1 Center, as well as a new deal with Verizon that will put free WiFi in 27 city parks.

He said the influx of tech will benefit the entire community, including local colleges and universities.

"In the long term, economic development-wise, we actually hope that it leads to more higher-paying jobs here in the region," Stewart said, "but in the short term there's actually a tie that we can build from tech companies to the communities, so there are educational pipelines that connect schools to the jobs of the future."

He envisions a future in which Sacramento can be on the frontline of "setting the standards for new tech as they roll out," he said, including - as an example - autonomous vehicles.

But some people worry the tech boom will further sky-rocketing housing prices and gridlock traffic.

Barry Broome is president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, which works to bring new and diverse business to the area.

"There'll be some growing pains from all of our prosperity, but it's a lot easier to fix a transit system when you've got a lot of jobs," Broome said. "If you're losing all your jobs and you start losing people, sure your housing prices will go down but your transit system won't work. There won't be enough traffic for your airport. You know, restaurants won't open."

His organization's goal, set last year, is to bring 200 small tech companies to the region over a decade.

"We're at about 10, so we only have 190 to go," he said. "But we'll get there!"

Those new startups will join the more than 150 small tech companies already working in the greater Sacramento area, according to a directory on the website StartupSac.

Another way anyone in Sacramento can benefit from the influx of tech is through something called the Creative Economy Pilot Project. This is a grant program through the city of Sacramento, focusing on food, art and tech. If somebody has an idea for a project, like a public art installation or a pop-up event, she or he can apply for up to $5,000 to make that happen.

There are only five days left to apply - the deadline is July 30, but Atwood said the application is fairly brief. She encourages people to toss their hat in the ring.

Apple for the Creative Economy Pilot Project grant HERE.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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