Tech job sector expected to grow – News – The Augusta Chronicle

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Not only does he see robust growth in Augusta from his own company, but one cyber executive also sees the “kindling” in place for startups to emerge and take off and for the tech industry as a whole to grow. Others see steady employment growth as cyber and Fort Gordon expand in coming years.

International company BAE Systems officially opened its office in the Georgia Cyber Center last week, and the company is expecting its presence to expand quickly in the Augusta area. The company has around 400 people working in intelligence analysis and support at Fort Gordon, and it also has a large manufacturing operation in Aiken with about 200 employees, said Peder Jungck, the vice president and general manager for the Intelligence Solutions division.

Growth in the information technology intelligence and security side alone could push that 600 to more than 1,000 by 2021, the company projected. Much of that could come from the Augusta area, Jungck said.

“This is very attractive to source from the local area talent who have got a lot of these cyberskills, whether they be a mix of (those coming from) college, a mix of those coming from the government” or even health care IT, he said. “One of those things that we have been looking for is really where is that we can develop those that are going to help us operate our cloud, operate our artificial intelligence-based analytics of data.”

Those workers could be serving customers locally or remotely hundreds of miles away through the cloud, for instance, but the Augusta area makes it attractive to have them here, Jungck said.

“Nobody really knows where a cloud is” physically, he said. “You can be here at the Cyber Center, you can be doing this stuff, you can be serving people all over the globe. But then you can leave and you’re not stuck in an hour-and-a-half of traffic. And you can go enjoy all of those finer things. That was that rewarding duality that you need for something kind of healthy so that we can go and get a workforce that is not only capable but it also going to be stable because we are going to invest so much in that talent that you don’t want (them) just the next week walking across the street.”

The area’s affordability makes it much more attractive than the larger, more established tech cities or those competing to be cyber cities. Jungck said his oldest son is paying $2,100 a month for a 400-square-foot apartment in New York City, and two of his college roommates now share a roughly 1,000-square-foot space in Silicon Valley for $3,600 a month.

But it is more than just livability, he said. Having watched Austin, Texas, develop its tech industry, and studying others like the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, there is a recipe for success, Jungck said.

“One, you have to have multiple industries investing in advancing technology,” he said.

Not only is U.S. Army Cyber Command coming next June to Fort Gordon, but there is also investment in health care and manufacturing taking place. About a quarter of Augusta’s employment, or 42,000 people, is already in some tech-related field, said Cal Wray, the president of the Augusta Economic Development Authority, and that will grow in coming years just at Fort Gordon.

The employee population there over the next five years is expected to grow by 6,778 employees, with a supported population including their dependents growing by 13,196, he said. As Cyber Command completes its move, the contractors clustered around its current base in the Washington area might also migrate with it, as BAE and others have started to do, Wray said.

“That’s the million-dollar question is how many of those that are in the D.C. area add jobs here around Fort Gordon as Cyber Command transitions?” he said.

Creating the next innovation city will take more than just industry, Jungck said,

“The second thing is you need the universities and the education system,” he said. “You need to have the local businesses really welcoming it.”

It is also important that former Gov. Nathan Deal and the state committed more than $100 million to build the Cyber Center and the city of Augusta committed $16 million for its parking deck in a “leap of faith” and show of support at all levels, Jungck said. It also provides the infrastructure so that growth can happen and create new companies and innovation.

“Then, it’s just like us (recognizing) this recipe is here,” Jungck said. “We’ll go bring these jobs. Then students say, I am going to go to Augusta University because it has a feeder for the internships and from the internships there’s the jobs. It creates the cycle that becomes a positive flywheel. That’s what you need.”

Hundreds of companies including BAE have been coming to Technet Augusta – a weeklong conference focused on the cyber industry that ended Friday – and checking out the environment for the past few years, and some are beginning to see “the benefit of having a footprint here in Augusta” and are “starting to plant those flags here,” said Sue Parr, the president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. “It’s exciting.”

The environment is also ripe for people to start their own companies, Jungck said. Unlike when he was starting businesses in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, stacking computers in his garage and hustling to create an infrastructure just to get it started, that process is so much easier now, he said.

“What we’re doing nowadays is lowering the bar for those new small businesses,” he said. “The technology advances we’re seeing today make it so that somebody with a smartphone can create a business, can create infrastructure and look almost on par with the biggest of companies. (With cloud computing) that’s where you can allow them to spend the bulk of their time on their business, their innovation, their idea as opposed to all of this back end, red tape and infrastructure just to get going.”

Augusta also has the incubator space necessary for a couple of people with a good idea to start working on it and find support along the way, he said.

“I’ve seen the kindling in place,” he said, much as it was in the early days of Silicon Valley. There is “maker space” available for those who need access to specialized equipment such as a 3-D printer, areas to hang out and use free Wi-Fi, and, most importantly, the elements to make a fledgling company successful.

“You have real companies around you,” Jungck said. “You have an investment climate. You have customers that are enduring. You also get the mentors. You can connect the one at the beginning of their career with those that are at the end. That’s what’s so neat.

“There are many of these cities that want that,” he said. “But there are few that have so many dimensions going on.”



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