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Pillar Technology connects with Silicon Valley leaders to bring tech jobs to Jefferson

Hundreds of people gathered at the History Boy Theatre in Jefferson, Iowa  Saturday night to hear from Silicon Valley tech leaders about how they are working with Pillar Technology in an effort to bring jobs to rural Iowa.

“There is nobody focused on rural America,” said Linc Kroeger of Pillar Technology, and organizer of the event. “I’m involved in so many urban development plans, which are so important and we need to do, but rural America’s been left for dead.” 

Over a dozen tech leaders from across the country traveled to Jefferson to speak at the event including U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, Linkedin co-founder Alan Blue, and Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott. They spoke about working with Pillar Technology to help bring high-paying tech jobs to Jefferson.

“The digital revolution is something that every community should and can participate in,” Khanna said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t believe that communities across the country like Jefferson. The innovation is here. What we need to do is make sure that young folks have the opportunities to say in Jefferson and participate in the new economy. “

Shortly after Khanna spoke, Kevin Scott of Microsoft took the stage to give his thoughts on Pillar’s initiative in Jefferson.

“I believe this work can give young people in rural parts of the country, in Iowa, an opportunity to stay where they want to be,” Scott said. “To have opportunities for really great tech jobs, to build lives for themselves, and to build an economic foundation for themselves and for the community.”

Scott then announced that his family foundation is contributing to Governor Kim Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa initiative as well as making a donation to Iowa Central Community College.

New Forge location will bring jobs to Jefferson

Pillar plans to open a $1.7 million office — known as the Forge — in Jefferson sometime in June 2019. Currently, Pillar has just under 70 employees in the state of Iowa and expects to add 25-30 more employees with the new location in Jefferson, with hopes that many of those employees are already located in Jefferson.

In addition to opening a new Forge in Jefferson, Pillar Technology will be launching a software development training program in collaboration with Greene County Community School District and local community colleges.

Students in Greene County will be able to take tech classes during high school tech classes as Jefferson’s new program. They will then take a year of community college—at either DMACC or Iowa Central Community College—followed by six months or more in Pillar Technology’s own apprenticeship program. 

If successful, Kroeger hopes to replicate the strategy, using it as a model to bring tech jobs to rural towns across the state. Pillar already has plans to open a third Iowa-based Forge in Council Bluffs.

Previous coverage…

Pillar Technology acquired by Accenture Industry X.0 -August 20, 2018

Pillar Technology connects with Silicon Valley leaders to bring tech jobs to Jefferson | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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