Articles

Montgomery, Ala., Poised to Become Diverse Tech Hub

It’s an area with the resources and creativity to become a hotbed for the digital world, but it’s been missing the spark that comes from making connections. That’s starting to change.

by Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) / November 16, 2016
Montgomery, Ala., as a planet Flickr/Stephen Poff

(TNS) -- Colleges and universities dot the city, staffed by cutting-edge tech experts teaching hundreds of eager students how to create the world of the future.

Some of the top minds in the military are stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex, which recently was named a tech hub with an expanded national mission.

New technology start-ups and longtime innovators are sprinkled throughout the business world in the River Region, often flying under the radar for years.

It’s an area with the resources and creativity to become a hotbed for the digital world, but it’s been missing the spark that comes from making connections.

That’s starting to change.

Earlier this year, a central Internet hub opened in downtown Montgomery, the result of a partnership between multiple entities in government, military, education and the private sector. ISPs can connect to the hub to offer faster speeds for their customers, and it allows local institutions to share data virtually instantly.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said at its launch that he expects the hub to eventually have a bigger impact on the area’s economy than Hyundai’s $4.8 billion. Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO David Bronner called the hub a fourth "leg" for Alabama's economy, comparing it to the beginnings of auto manufacturing, downtown redevelopment and golf tourism.

Grass-roots tech efforts are also surging. Tech workers, creative professionals and business leaders from all walks of life have started meeting regularly to connect and combine resources in a way that can help encourage more tech startups and a better creative environment.

A group of techies, under the banner hackMGM, have had a hand in building websites, apps and resources for everything from CrimeStoppers to tourism efforts. They recently got backing from a national group that could mean more resources for even bigger projects.

Boyd Stephens of Netelysis has been teaching free classes for entrepreneurs in tech and other fields to inspire more startups. The first few rounds in late 2014 and early 2015 resulted in about a dozen startups, several of which quickly expanded.

The goal of the classes, Stephens said, is to couch the “wing and a prayer” nature of entrepreneurship by helping people make decisions based on accurate data and the right information. "I'm a big advocate of praying, but I like to have some data to let me know what I'm praying about," he said.

©2016 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.