On Wednesday, July 30th, Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council announced the 2014 awards for the city’s Technology Matching Funds program, including the Denny Terrace Computer Lab on lower Capitol Hill. The program, first initiated in 1997, is designed to help boost STEM literacy in lower-income households and increase the city’s tech workforce and will disburse a total of $320,000 to 23 technology-oriented organizations and projects throughout the city.
In a press release, Mayor Murray stated that the need for this program remains great as Seattle’s tech industry continues to grow while many of the city’s lower-income residents and immigrant families are unable to take advantage of the opportunities available.
“While access to technology has increased for many, there is still a significant gap in the access to and use of technology in Seattle,” said Murray. “Technology skills are necessary for success in the 21st century and these funds play a critical role in preparing our residents.”
The program matches community contributions to each organization from volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash in amounts up to $20,000. Since the program began distributing the matching funds, $3,430,832 has been awarded to 270 projects and organizations.
“These funds play an important role in leveling the playing field. They help our must vulnerable residents use technology in innovative and meaningful ways, including seniors, at risk youth, homeless women and children, immigrants and refugees, and people with disabilities,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.
The Denny Terrace Computer Lab will be awarded $14,521 in matching funds. Of the 23 awardees in 2014, the Denny Norris Computer Lab was the only Capitol Hill organization to receive matching grant funds. According to the computer labs proposal, the organization aims to use these funds to “strengthen the computer lab as a resource for low income Seattle Housing Authority residents by updating hardware and software and holding classes and drop-in instruction in languages other than English.”
David Norris, manager of the Denny Terrace Computer Lab, attended the committee meeting on behalf of the organization.
“I would first like to thank the mayor and the city council for the gracious invitation, and I would also like to thank those parties that made our grant a reality,” said Norris. “Deliah Burke, the technology matching fund manager; Ellen Kissman, the grant writer who helped organize our thoughts and ideas, and Marsha Johnson, the community builder with the Seattle Housing Authority who has been with us, helping in every capacity, and to the volunteers who keep the lab running on a day-to-day basis.”
Harrell and Murray’s call for a strengthening of the tech literacy among Seattle’s current population to keep long-time residents from being displaced by out-of-state workers reflects the region’s continuing growth in the tech industry, which has shown to be increasing as the national economy continues to pick-up steam in the wake of the recession.
In the first business quarter, Amazon hired 7,300 employees, bringing its total workforce to 124,600 fulltime and part-time workers and overtaking Microsoft as the largest the metropolitan area’s largest tech employer. Over the last year, Amazon has seen its headcount grow by over a third, going from 81,400 in the first quarter of 2013.
In addition to the Technology Matching Funds program, the mayor’s office and the city council have also introduced a plan to remove a regulatory barrier called the SDOT “director’s rule to allow for telecommunication companies to increase broadband services to underserved areas of Seattle, including the Central District and Beacon Hill. Harrell stated that increasing broadband connectivity is both “an equity issue” and “critical to developing our local economy.”
“So much of our recent economic growth has been due to the success of high tech companies and start-ups that have chosen to make Seattle home,” said Murray. “Yet not all Seattleites are benefiting from our technology boom, and we know that some neighborhoods today lack adequate, competitive choices for broadband internet access. CenturyLink’s announcement to bring fiber internet access to tens of thousands of homes is an important first step in my broadband strategy, but there is more we can do as city to bring equal and affordable access to all.”