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Local Black and Brown Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builders Announce Formation of New Tech Initiative to Reduce Innovation Deserts

Twelve local Black and Brown entrepreneurial support organizations announced the formation of the Central Ohio Tech & Innovation Collaborative. COTIC is a collective action effort to increase the number of technology and technology- enabled business owners, close wealth gaps and create jobs in underinvested Central Ohio communities of color also known as innovation deserts. The groups represent the African American, Latinx and African immigrant communities. 

COTIC’s initial project, funded by the KeyBank Foundation, is assessing market needs, gaps and opportunities. “KeyBank is committed to supporting initiatives that help create equity for communities of color in all spaces by continuing our longstanding focus on diversity, equity and inclusion inside and outside the company.” said Stacy M. Thompson, Senior Vice President, West and Midwest Regional Corporate Responsibility Manager, KeyBank. “We are pleased to align with COTIC and its mission to help increase minority owned tech businesses and jobs across Central Ohio.“

Gloria Ware, Director, KeyBank Center for Technology, Innovation and Inclusive Growth expressed the need for the study. "Too often in the development of innovation ecosystems, efforts to understand the unique needs, perspectives and insights of communities of color are an afterthought. As result, there are gaps in the availability and delivery of entrepreneurial services and resources, leading to the loss of transformational ideas and growth opportunities for our state. COTIC is being led and fueled by culturally diverse entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners, with the goal of closing opportunity, resource and innovation gaps. The market insights gained will lay a strong foundation for growing a strong and equitable Ohio economy."

“We are grateful to the KeyBank Foundation and Jumpstart for seed money to conduct the research we need to build a credible business case for greater investment and deal flow to our organizations and entrepreneurs- aspirational and established. It’s a critical first step on the path to achieving an equitable pandemic recovery in our community and our region,” said Keena M. Smith, CEO, The Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity. WCEO is managing the project locally.

“Data show people of color are as innovative as any,” said Dr. Jordan Argus, Chief Research Officer at Crane Research and Development, “yet investment doesn’t seem to easily find its way to where we live at the same rates. The disparities are well known. We will gather data and spark conversations with residents, funders and investors that will illuminate an evidence-based path to more equitable technology investment in our communities”. Dr. Argus is the lead researcher for COTIC.

Guadalupe Velasquez, Managing Director of Welcoming City and COTIC lead for Latinx outreach and engagement, said, “The Latinx community is becoming more aware of business and workforce opportunities in technology. Intentional investing in this growing part of Central Ohio is important to sustaining the economic prosperity of our region”.

COTIC is a convener, advocate and research hub. The group has held multiple focus groups and will soon host community convenings and launch an online survey. Invitations to participate in community convenings and the survey will be translated to Spanish to encourage inclusive participation.  

Members are organizations and individuals including Black Tech Columbus, ColumbusBlack, Venture Suite, Zora’s House, The Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity (WCEO), Welcoming City/US Together Inc., Senior African American Leaders in Technology (SAALT) Group, Crane R&D, Wōkanda, Just Diidz and Columbus Minority Business Assistance Center at the Columbus Urban League 

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