By Andy Owens
With work crews, dump trucks and project managers focused on raising the Charleston Tech Center over Morrison Drive, the Charleston Digital Corridor and its partners are focused on setting the organization’s future agenda.
In the past, that has included creating infrastructure and finding enough affordable, short-term commercial space for small, high-growth, early stage companies to find a place to plant and grow in the Charleston market.
The 92,000-square-foot, six-story building with a parking garage, a blanket of high-speed Wi-Fi, green space, restaurant and retail space, and room to grow takes care of many infrastructure needs. Now, Ernest Andrade, executive director of the Charleston Digital Corridor, said the organization wants to focus on two specific areas that need attention: talent and diversity.
Both have always been a concern of the digital corridor, Andrade said, but those two vital components of the tech sector have been elusive. He said a lot of attention was required for developing commercial real estate assets to give companies a place to be, especially in a market like Charleston. The Charleston Tech Center allows the corridor to now shift.
“What the building represents is a very tangible culmination of a lot of work that’s gone into building this community,” Andrade said. “Now what are we starting to focus on? A key piece of infrastructure has been taken care of. Now we start to focus on talent.”
Andrade said that includes looking at the demographics of the community — and not just of the Charleston region, but the tech sector itself: where it is going to be in the next 10 years and how to pull in companies that represent a broader segment of people. Andrade said he wants the tech economy to start to look more like the demographics of the community.
“Who got left behind and what are we doing to address it? I want the tech community to look a lot more like the underrepresented,” he said. “I have been working on this for five years.”