Grand Island’s information technology sector is getting a boost.
Nebraska Tech Collaborative, via Omaha’s Aksarben Foundation, is helping to strengthen local IT entrepreneur efforts through Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp.
“We have some entrepreneurs in Grand Island in the IT sector looking to grow, and Nebraska Tech Collaborative is one of the corporations we’ve connected with,” GIAEDC President Dave Taylor reported to Citizens Advisory Review Committee on Thursday.
NTC, which officially launched in 2019, aims to increase the number of tech jobs in Nebraska by 10,000 and the number of new tech companies in Nebraska by 300 by the year 2025, according to its website.
A goal of NTC is to make Nebraska more competitive in the retention and recruitment of tech workers.
GIAEDC has visited with NTC in Omaha twice, and NTC representatives also have visited Grand Island, Taylor said.
“We’re trying to give these entrepreneurs, specifically in the IT sector, that next step up,” he said. “Having sat in on some of these meetings, they really challenge this sector. I look forward to having that continued dialogue with (NTC) and our local entrepreneurs.”
To foster greater IT entrepreneurism in Grand Island, GIAEDC started the Future Builders challenge, Taylor told The Independent.
The program focused on high school sophomores interested in starting a business.
In the same way, GIAEDC has wanted to provide that support for adults with a propensity for entrepreneurism, Taylor said.
Aksarben has been interested in developing Grand Island’s tech sector. Knowing this, GIAEDC pursued advice and support for growing local efforts.
“The initial conversation started with entrepreneurism, and what we can do to help Grand Island be known as a place that supports this sector,” Taylor said.
Industries also are challenged with finding qualified employees.
As businesses look to remain competitive, in many cases they’re looking toward automation, Taylor said.
“That will ultimately create more IT type jobs, whether it’s robotics or the electronics that run the equipment or programming,” he said. “You’re going to create additional jobs.”
CoFound, a Grand Island-based tech collaborative that launched in November 2020, has worked with both GIAEDC and NTC.
The company provides support for local start-ups, explained founder Jon Rhoades.
“People can come in and work together to grow their business, as opposed to separately, so they can share resources and grow together,” he said.
A workforce gap in the technology sector exists in Grand Island, Rhoades said.
“As students leave our high school and community college, there’s really no technology jobs,” he said. “NTC’s focus is on growing the tech workforce. If they can help EDC ultimately solve that problem in the Grand Island area, it just makes sense.”
Grand Island already has a growing IT sector, Rhoades said.
On the second Thursday of every month, CoFound hosts IdeaStorm, a meeting at the company’s 214 N. Locust St. location to discuss area technology problems.
“We haven’t really promoted that, but just through word-of-mouth, people have showed up,” he said. “That gives us a lot of hope that there are a lot of technical-types out there, and if we can foster that, there’s a great opportunity there.”
Taylor said the partnership with NTC is an exciting one.
“We believe we can serve as the conduit between Nebraska Tech Collaborative for the IT sector and the needs our industries have here, and also on the entrepreneurial front,” he said. “We’re ultimately hoping it helps out our industries in Grand Island.”