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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Ford-Duncil

Tech in the Central Valley: A Resilient Spirit Amid Trials

By Alexis Ford-Duncil, Public Relations and Communications Coordinator at the Water, Energy and Technology Center

Photo by Discover Fresno on Unsplash


If there is one thing I know about Fresno, we’re incredibly resilient. The Central Valley, located in the heart of California, has long been known as an agricultural powerhouse. However, it is often overlooked as a hub for technological innovation. Though, of course, I have to disagree.


Recently, our region faced a harsh setback with the news of Bitwise Industries, a prominent tech company based in downtown Fresno, furloughing its entire staff. As a proud Fresno resident, it’s been hard for me to see the devastating impacts that my comrades at Bitwise are facing and the rippling effects it has had on their lives, families, and Fresno as a whole. My heart goes out to all who have been impacted, and my greatest hope is that all who are affected can navigate this tumultuous time successfully and be working again soon. Their expertise is undoubtedly needed in our community. Remember what I said about resilience? It’s true not just for our community but also for the trials we are experiencing in our tech community, too.


The Bitwise Saga

In case you missed it, Bitwise Industries, a prominent tech company in the Central Valley, recently faced a significant blow when it made the tough decision to furlough all its staff. This news sent shockwaves through the local tech community and raised concerns about the future of technology in the region, among other things, as the Bitwise story unfolds. Each update seems to unwrap feelings of disappointment and heartbreak, which undoubtedly coins the classic response my fellow Fres-nians express when things go south; “Fresno just can’t have anything nice.”


I'm afraid I have to disagree.


We’re a vibrantly sophisticated and diverse community with an impactful story to share. Our art scene is ever-growing. We have plenty of opportunities to immerse ourselves in nature with our many local parks or by taking a short drive to Shaver Lake, Millerton Lake, Pismo Beach, or even Yosemite National Park, depending on your taste. Our small businesses fuel our passion for serving the communities we live in, either with lively food settings or with goods and services made by the hands of our neighbors. We support locals more than any community I know. Our sports scene is also unique, with professional athletes making waves in the NBA, MLB and the NFL, all former Fresno State alumni. Even our local teams, like the Fresno Grizzlies and the Fresno Fuego, garner crowds eager to cheer on their teams with pride. It’s Fresno's pride in its community members that make us, and Beyoncé would say, unique. Despite recent news that may have us feeling like we don’t, we also have a strong community for tech and innovation. Adversity has often been the catalyst for change and innovation; the Central Valley is no stranger to this.


A Magic Ball: Predicting the Central Valley’s Tech Future

Amid the challenging news surrounding Bitwise, the Central Valley has a robust support system in place. The Water, Energy and Technology Center (WET Center), among other fantastic organizations located in Fresno, plays a vital role in nurturing and promoting technological growth in the region. The center is a collaborative space where entrepreneurs, researchers, and businesses can connect, share ideas, and develop innovative solutions. Through programs like the Central Valley iHUB and BlueTechValley, it serves as a soft landing space for innovators to develop their technology in communities/industries that need it most.


If you have been having trouble developing your business or innovative idea, but perhaps the water, energy, and ag-tech sectors aren’t where you thrive, check out our local partners listed here.


Bouncing Back and Spurring Innovation

The recent news regarding Bitwise's furloughs is disheartening, but the spirit of innovation and resilience in the Central Valley, in my opinion, remains unwavering. In times like these, the community's true potential emerges.


Collaboration is a critical component of bouncing back stronger than ever. Local tech companies, educational institutions, and government agencies can come together to create a supportive ecosystem that fosters innovation and nurtures talent. In many ways, we are already seeing our community come together and support each other. (Check out other ways the community is coming together here, here and you guessed it, here.) By leveraging the existing strengths of the Central Valley, such as its rich agricultural heritage and strong community ties, the region can diversify its technological landscape and attract new industries.


Investment in education and workforce development is crucial for long-term growth. By providing quality education and training in STEM fields, the Central Valley can equip its residents with the skills needed to thrive in the digital era. Local educational institutions like Fresno State, UC Merced, Fresno Pacific University, and many community colleges are already working to help fill the need for technology-focused careers. Encouraging entrepreneurship and providing access to venture capital and resources will also significantly foster innovation. (Plus, local venture capital firms like the Central Valley Angel Group tend to invest in local businesses directly impacting their communities.)


Additionally, leveraging partnerships with established tech centers and companies outside the region can bring fresh perspectives and opportunities for collaboration. By actively engaging with the broader tech community, the Central Valley can position itself as a thriving hub for innovation and attract new talent and investments. The best part? It’s already happening; we just hit a bump in the road.


Conclusion

While Bitwise's recent challenges may have momentarily cast a shadow over the tech industry in the Central Valley, it is essential to recognize that the spirit of innovation remains strong. The support provided by the Water, Energy and Technology Center and other deeply involved local organizations exemplifies the community's commitment to helping individuals navigate difficult times and seize new opportunities.


By embracing collaboration, investing in education, and leveraging the region's unique strengths, the Central Valley has the potential to bounce back stronger than ever. The trials and tribulations faced by Bitwise are not the end but a catalyst for renewed determination and resilience. I know this as a fact. With a collective effort, the Central Valley can continue to spur innovation, attract investment, and establish itself as a thriving tech hub in California. Let’s not give up hope. Let’s continue to be boldly resilient.

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