CHICAGO, Nov. 07, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gary, Indiana is as unlikely a place for a tech hub as you can find. With crumbling infrastructure, thousands of abandoned homes, and an unemployment rate double the national average, Gary is a city well-known for its struggles. And it's a place that generates the type of headlines that make it almost impossible for the city to escape its narrative.
But Emile Cambry knows a thing or two about changing narratives, and he sees a different story in Gary--one that involves using technology to ignite change. Cambry, the founder of BLUE|1647 an entrepreneurship and technology innovation center that launched three years ago in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood at 1647 S. Blue Island Ave, has been expanding the program across the US at a rapid pace and recently brought the workforce development and business accelerator to Gary.
Gary is just one stop on an ambitious roadmap of cities where Cambry has brought, and will bring, the Blue model. In addition to Gary, in the last 12 months BLUE|1647 has expanded to St. Louis, Compton, Los Angeles, and even Haiti, while also growing its Chicago footprint with a tech accelerator in Englewood and an advanced manufacturing space on the West Side. In the last year, BLUE|1647 has taught coding and other tech skills to over 16,000 students across the US, held hackathons in more than 10 states, and its team has made 5 trips to the White House. Cambry stated he's making plans to expand to New York, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. And BLUE|1647 is unveiling new products to further connect the communities it serves, like an online training program where community organizations can launch their own Blue programs when Cambry's team can't be there in person (like Haiti, for example).
BLUE|1647's goal is to set up in diverse communities and host tech classes and workshops, put on tech events, and provide space and other tools for early-stage companies to grow their businesses. BLUE|1647 hosts programs like 1919, a women in technology initiative that just launch its newest cohort that will train 75 women of color in tech. It runs Latina Girls Code, a program that provides tech education young Latinas ages 7-17. And its Code Chicago program does hands-on, mobile development, web programming and design training. Blue 1647 will soon launch pop up tech workshops out of a school bus, which will allow the group to go into more Chicago communities.
BLUE|1647’s multitude of programs have taken off in Chicago, but things really started to heat up for Cambry and his team when the New York Times profiled BLUE|1647 in June.
"We just really wanted to start to double down on the stuff that we do," he said. "We launched what we call the 'new normal campaign' on Twitter and Facebook. We want to show that it's normal to be talking about crowdfunding, to be building a business, to be working on technology in communities that weren’t seen as innovation centers."
Cambry says his goal is to eventually engage with 1 million people in a day, whether that's online or in person. And he wants to see BLUE|1647 companies contribute a combined $1 billion in annual revenue.
The success stories are already starting to pile up. BLUE|1647 members have launched startups, Code Chicago graduates have landed jobs and internships at tech companies like SMS Assist, dough, and Lenovo, and students have gotten scholarships at the University of Illinois and other engineering schools.
The technology industry at large has a major diversity problem, and some companies--like Facebook--have argued that there simply isn't enough talented minorities to fill these roles, an excuse that generated a fair amount of criticism. For more information, contact BLUE|1647 at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, contact BLUE|1647 at email@example.com