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Indianapolis: ‘Silicon Valley’ in the US Midwest

A New Silicon Valley in Middle America
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Could Indianapolis be a new "Silicon Valley" in Middle America?

Indianapolis: ‘Silicon Valley’ in US Midwest
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Indianapolis, the capital of the state of Indiana, is not often thought of as a technology center. One city official, however, believes the city’s image is changing.

Angela Smith Jones is the deputy mayor of economic development. She compares Indianapolis to a version of Silicon Valley.

In other words, Indianapolis is becoming a center for new, technology-based businesses, similar to Silicon Valley in California.

Last year, technology companies in Indianapolis added $7.7 billion to the city’s economy. They employed 75,000 people and are seeking more. Openings for technology-related jobs increased 40 percent last year.

Kenzie Academy

Courtney Spence is the founder of a school in Indianapolis that teaches people technology skills. Spence says the city is on the edge of a “tech boom.”

Spence and her school, Kenzie Academy, are trying to keep technology talent in the Indianapolis area.

"Our point is to bring people from Indianapolis to stay in Indianapolis," says Spence. To do that, the school places students in local companies as quickly as possible.

Kavitha Kamalbabu is one of Kenzie’s top students. Born in India, she is 36 years old and the mother of two school-age children.

Kamalbabu says that she knew she wanted to work in technology. But, she could not launch a career in San Jose or another city in Silicon Valley. She needed to stay close to her home and family in Indianapolis. So she began a two-year program at Kenzie Academy to earn a degree as a software developer.

Recently, Kamalbabu and some other students were invited to visit a local company called Steady Serve. The business has created an app to reduce waste by measuring how much beer remains in a beer storage container.

In the past, the head of Steady Serve, Steve Hershberger, hired workers from big universities near Silicon Valley. Now, he is choosing candidates from Kenzie to work on the coding. He says he likes the qualities he sees in the local workers.

“It’s like [Kenzie Academy] folded the country and brought San Jose into Indianapolis,” he says.

Silicon Valley still popular

However, students who are already in Silicon Valley may not like the idea of working in the area known as the Midwest.

Max Comolli is a first-year student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Comolli said he would not leave California for Indiana because Silicon Valley already has "such a great tech scene already established."

Diego Garcia is working on a Master’s degree at Stanford. He says that when he considers top technology areas, he thinks of "California or New York, not Indianapolis."

But Stanford University freshman Alexa White has a different opinion. She grew up in Detroit, Michigan, another city in the Midwest. She thinks a technology capital in the region would "benefit the field" and create diversity.

Seeking greater diversity

Estimates say women make up only a small percentage of workers in technology fields. In that way, Kenzie Academy in Indianapolis is similar to the rest of the field. Of the current class, only Kamalbabu and another person, Mya Williams, are female. The next class of 18 students starting later this year will have three women.

School officials at Kenzie say they are trying hard to bring more women to the school. They are also planning to create more academies internationally, starting in Malaysia.

Founder Courtney Spence goes further. She says she wants to create academies like Kenzie all over the world.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Carolyn Presutti wrote this report for VOA.Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it from Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

boom – n. a rapid growth of business

code – n. a set of instructions for a computer​

talent – n. a person or group of people with a special ability to do something well​

fold – v. to bend one part of (something) over or against another part​

scene – n. a particular area of activity that involves many people​

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect​

region – n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way​

diversity – n. the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization​