Bitwise Industries plans to build a location in Greeley, along with four other cities across the United States, to train area residents on technology skills, build an apprenticeship program and offer tech work like software development to area businesses, the company announced Wednesday.
The Fresno, California-based company’s business model is to open a “technology hub” in an older, blighted, underused or vacant building, in an area of the city that might need revitalization.
“We want to pump new energy into the city,” Amy Thelen, who oversees the company’s city expansions, said in an interview. “Our locations in Bakersville and Fresno had sat vacant for years. So far, we’ve revitalized about 1 million square feet of commercial space.”
Other cities tabbed for Bitwise expansion include Buffalo, New York; El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It will bring the 9-year-old company’s locations to 10.
“We started Bitwise Industries nearly a decade ago with the hope of helping our local community and since then, Bitwise has positively impacted thousands of lives, driven economic growth in underestimated cities, and is creating the tech workforce of the future,” co-founder and CEO Jake Soberal said in a news release. “Our goal is to bring our proven, repeatable approach to as many communities and people as possible. What has been successful in our first five cities, will become part of these new regions’ stories of how investing in underestimated people and places can create a more inclusive and representative economy.”
The company broke into the Colorado market earlier this year when it acquired Denver-based software development company Techtonic Inc.
Soberal said at the time: “Registered and accredited apprenticeship programs like those offered by Bitwise and Techtonic provide earn-while-you-learn training, addressing major income equality issues across the country and the growing demand for skilled technology workers.”
Bitwise chose Greeley over a metro Denver location because of its goal to serve “underestimated cities,” Thelen said.
“It doesn’t really have the tech scene, whereas Denver has plenty of tech already embedded in the landscape,” Thelen said. “We’re looking for spaces where people can break into the tech industry. … The new tech economy will add jobs and build jobs.
“Our goal is to build the most inclusive and diverse workforce, and provide the most access to as many neighborhoods as possible.”
Students and apprentices — Bitwise officials say the company operates one of the largest federally accredited apprenticeship programs in the country — learn skills like Salesforce administration and web development. The company’s Enterprise Technology Consulting business then “develops custom software for local organizations” like businesses, government or schools, Thelen said.
Students who purchase four, six-week courses for $250 each “will come out an entry level developer,” she said.
The company has trained more than 8,000 students, and 80% have landed jobs in the tech industry, she said.
“The real estate is important because it brings new life to the city block, or building that had sat vacant, with coffee shops, breweries and event space,” Thelen said. “We have companies who rent space for presentations, or meetings or coworking space.”
The company hasn’t signed a lease in Greeley and will likely operate in temporary space while a more permanent location is found, Thelen said. She estimated Bitwise would provide “hundreds of jobs in the first couple of years.”