Normal, Ill., Finds ‘Tech Town’ Inspiration in High School Pilot Program

Coordination among K-12 schools, universities, businesses and entrepreneurs is the overall vision for Tech Town, an effort to turn the area into a hub of technology business.

by Derek Beigh and Lenore Sobota, The Pantagraph / June 1, 2015

(TNS) -- Normal, Ill., City Council member Kevin McCarthy thinks the relationship between Bloomington High School and State Farm can be a model for others.

Coordination among K-12 schools, universities, businesses and entrepreneurs is the focus of BN Tech Town, an effort by the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council to make the Twin Cities a hub of technology business.

“The overall vision for Tech Town is to develop the McLean County area into the premiere technology ecosystem in downstate Illinois for connecting, attracting and developing world-class … talent and opportunities,” said McCarthy, who owns a local company, Path Performance Coaching & Consulting. “We're working in a number of areas trying to get this off the ground.”

McCarthy said the EDC wants to bring people together and “let the partners hash things out themselves," including “aligning business partners to cooperate with our schools.” It held a meeting in February with school superintendents, college presidents and business leaders to start.

As with BHS and State Farm, he imagines businesses dictating which skills they need and schools determining how to teach them, including curriculum. State Farm worked on the curriculum for the BHS class.

Once students have the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills necessary to work in the field or start a business — Illinois State University and Heartland Community College are involved in the initiative, but McCarthy said he has “nothing to announce yet” — Tech Town hopes to provide them with tools to get their ideas into practice.

“We're working on entrepreneur incubator space” where people can buy a membership, work, hang out and trade ideas, McCarthy said. The initiative also aims to support strong technology infrastructure like Web access.

Groups with similar goals include The Bloomington-Normal Angel Investor Network Inc. that is opening the Slingshot Co-Work space for technology-based start-up companies and other developers in the former Uptown Renewal office.

©2015 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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