Interapt’s TEKY facility in Paintsville, KY, was the site of a roundtable discussion about promoting economic diversity in Appalachia through collaboration and partnerships to support a next-generation technology workforce.
The roundtable included state and federal leaders, as well as experts in technology and workforce development, who talked about the need to skill up rural communities in Eastern Kentucky and beyond to make their tech workers competitive with tech talent from anywhere in the world. The event took place on March 13th, 2017 at the Mayo Campus of Big Sandy Community & Technical College.
The event was co-hosted by Interapt and Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-5) and KY Governor Matt Bevin, and included Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17), whose district represents the heart of Silicon Valley. Congressman Hal Rogers spoke of the grit and work ethic of Eastern Kentuckians, something Rogers is certain “beats anywhere else in the country” and will drive the growth of what he calls "Silicon Holler."
Governor Bevin spoke of the need for hard work and patience to achieve sustainable results, and challenged local residents and leaders to “be the roar” to signify the resilience and aggressive growth of Kentucky’s labor force. He talked about his own humble beginnings and how it instilled a work ethic in him that he sees reflected in citizens of Eastern Kentucky.
Congressman Khanna talked about why Silicon Valley should pay attention to “Silicon Holler” and engage with its newly-trained tech workforce. He talked about the similarities he had observed between Silicon Valley and Eastern Kentucky, namely “collaboration and people willing to take risks and dream big.” He promised to return and speak with tech leaders in his district about potential collaboration with tech companies in Appalachia.
Other featured guests included Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of ARC; Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt; and Megan Smith, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer. All spoke briefly before the roundtable about the unique opportunities within Appalachia, and how enough work, vision, and collaboration could flip the region’s historical struggles into a new workforce success story in the near future.
After some opening remarks, KET’s Renee Shaw began a roundtable discussion that included:
- KY Governor Matt Bevin
- Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-5)
- Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17)
- Megan Smith, Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer
- Earl Gohl, Federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission
- Terry Gill, Sec. of KY Cabinet for Economic Development
- Rodney Hitch, Corporate Economic Development, EKPC
- Derrick Ramsay, Sec. of KY Labor Cabinet
- Sally Smyth, Director of Community Finance and Impact, Opportunity@Work
- Jeff Whitehead, EKCEP Executive Director
- Jared Arnett, SOAR Executive Director
- Eric Daimler, The Robotics Hub and Coal Hill Ventures
- K. Ryan Burke, Co-founder of TechHire
- Rusty Justice, Co-founder of BitSource
- Ankur Gopal, Interapt CEO
The roundtable discussion touched on major workforce issues being tackled locally by public-private partnerships like TEKY and state agencies like EKCEP, and nationally through agencies like ARC and federal programs like TechHire. Participants emphasized the need for public economic development agencies to engage the private sector and keep them involved with workforce development initiatives that relied on their support, but also overcoming the practical challenges of skilling up rural and isolated regions that may be struggling in the modern, digital economy.
Since TEKY has become a case study on how public-private partnerships could spin up technology ecosystems in other pockets of Appalachia, event hosts and guests then toured Interapt’s TEKY facility and met recent graduates of the inaugural cohort who are currently completing internships that will prepare them for full-time work as digital coders. TEKY interns both demonstrated the Interapt technology and products they have been learning and working with, and even showed off a new app they had already built themselves from the ground up.
“As I’ve traveled and met tech leaders in Silicon Valley, D.C., New York, and around the world, I’ve had an opportunity not only to talk about new ideas for creating tech ecosystems in rural and remote regions that need it, but also to explain what we are actually doing in Eastern Kentucky with TEKY,” said Interapt CEO Ankur Gopal. “I invited these leaders to our roundtable to show them how it can actually work. We can take this model and apply it to virtually any community, and with the right support and collaboration we can transform any workforce into tech talent that meets the demands and business needs of the new digital economy.”
Additional Media Coverage:
Photo Gallery: EKCEP has an online collection of photos from the event.
Full video broadcast coverage (KET TV)
How Congress connects to jobs of the future (View on MSNBC TV)
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., joins Morning Joe to discuss connecting Silicon Valley with the workforce in Eastern Kentucky.
Leaders, experts discuss high-tech jobs for Eastern Kentucky (View on WWYMT-TV)
Tech companies look to reinvent eastern Kentucky workforce (View on Lexington Herald Leader/AP)
Silicon Holler: How workforce retraining is bringing tech jobs to Appalachia (View on TechRepublic)
Work to transform area IT workforce training continues (View on Floyd County Times)
Silicon Hollow: More Tech Jobs Coming To Eastern Kentucky (View on WFPL)
Khanna headed to Appalachia to support program that trains young people for tech jobs (View on Politico)