A technology center for the George Floyd Square neighborhoods? Society, technology leaders say now is the time

For nearly a year, community and business leaders have been working together to build a community technology hub at the Sabatani Community Center in South Minneapolis, a center serving young people living around George Floyd Square at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

The technology center is expected to open in October, providing training and connections for local kids to pursue careers in technology. It includes computers, a play area, virtual and augmented reality technology, a music studio and a maker space.

Founded by tech entrepreneurs and business owners in the wake of Floyd’s murder, Smart North is a Twin Cities nonprofit that promotes digital literacy and equity in communities of color throughout Minnesota.

The group is building a similar technology center on the Deer River near the Leech Lake Reservation, which will support indigenous families.

Entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, technologists and members of the business community culminated a weeklong series of events aimed at helping early-stage businesses grow Saturday as part of Twin Cities Startup Week at the Technology Center.

“This technology center is a place where people can learn how to imagine a different future for themselves in a psychologically safe space and then get the tools and mentoring skills,” said co-founder Will Preble. and Smart North board member and CEO of Eterna Media during a panel discussion prior to the tech center tour.

Prebble added that, with the help of his corporate and civic partners, the goal is for kids to have a way to use those skills “in the real world.”

Panelists said the platform will put South Minneapolis youth on the path to six-figure salaries.

According to Tayo Daniel, founder of Smart North and Eterna Media, the center is designed for people aged 12 to 24 years.

Smart North plans to mobilize those young people into technology support roles helping seniors and small business owners in the George Floyd Square neighborhoods. They will also learn how to create and sell their own non-perishable tokens or NFTs.

“We want people to know that,” Daniels said.

Smart North is raising $500,000 to pay for things like 3D printing machines, staff, and part of the food center’s nutrition program.

Cybersecurity analysts and software developers are among the most in-demand jobs and are the top occupations in the US overall, according to US News. Over the next 10 years, 47,100 cyber analyst jobs and 410,000 software jobs will be created. Those occupations come with median annual salaries of $104,000 and $110,000, respectively.

“Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing industry, and unfortunately the migration of talent is struggling to keep up,” said Nick Schneider, CEO of Eden-Prairie Cyber ​​Security, a community partner of Smart North. .

“As companies like Arctic Wolf continue to invest in talent hubs beyond Silicon Valley like Minneapolis, the talent pool will continue to grow as candidates have the opportunity to stand out and join a high-growth community.”

Software developers and cyber analysts are leading technology jobs in Minnesota. Yet only 5 percent of the state’s technology workforce consists of people who identify as black or Hispanic, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association.

“The value of investing in untapped talent markets is immeasurable, not only is it opening the door to address critical skills shortages, but we’re democratizing high-tech career opportunities in previously overlooked regions,” Schneider said.

Smart North drew input from neighborhood youth to design the technology center, Daniels said. Last year, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Alicia Smith, also executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization in South Minneapolis, held a hearing with youth who live near the Sabatani Community Center.

Organizers hope the station will be a safe haven for a generation of young people whose education has been disrupted by the murder of Floyd by the now-criminal Minneapolis police, the devastation of their neighborhood and the violence that has erupted since his death. Global pandemic.

“We have to open the door,” Smith said. Our responsibility is to open the door and welcome.

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